Welfare cuts unjust, say four churches

 
A family The churches say poor people are misrepresented as being lazy

Four churches have joined forces to accuse the government of welfare payment cuts they say are unjust and target society's most vulnerable.

The Easter criticism has come from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, and the Church of Scotland.

They also want to see a change to "a false picture" of the poor as "lazy".

The government said society suffered when people were paid more to be unemployed than to work.

A series of changes to benefits are being made in April - including capping rises on working-age benefits at 1% - which will affect hundreds of thousands of households across the UK.

Ministers say they are necessary to tackle the rising cost to the taxpayer.

Rising costs

The Methodist Church's Paul Morrison explains why his church opposes the changes

But the churches accuse politicians and parts of the media of making the cuts easier to impose by misrepresenting poor people as lazy.

The Methodist Church's public policy adviser, Paul Morrison, said the British public had "come to believe things about the poorest in our society which are just straightforwardly not true.

"The public believes that the major cause of poverty is laziness, yet the majority of people in poverty work. How can that be the case?"

And the Reverend Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the Baptist Union, said "The one interesting fact I find is that the majority, the rise in poverty over the last decade, has been more amongst those on low income than on those who are unemployed."

The government says it has always been clear that the system is failing people, not the other way around.

The Department for Work and Pensions said in a statement: "It's not fair that benefits claimants can receive higher incomes than families who are in work - in some cases more than double the average household income."

Labour estimates that families will be an average of £891 worse off in the new financial year starting this week because of tax rises and cuts to tax credits and benefits introduced since 2010.

The analysis is based on figures published by the Institute of Fiscal Studies think tank.

'Paying price'

Earlier this month, the Archbishop of Canterbury backed an open letter, signed by 43 of his bishops, criticising plans to limit rises in working-age benefits and some tax credits to 1% for three years.

He said the current system recognised rising costs of food, fuel and housing by giving benefit rises in line with inflation.

"These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the government," he said.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby The Archbishop of Canterbury said Mr Duncan Smith was "a principled expert on welfare"

In response, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told MPs he did not agree that "the way to get children out of poverty is to simply keep transferring more and more money to keep them out of work".

"The reality is what we're having to do is reform a system that became completely out of control under the last government, get people back in work, for being in work is how you get your children out of poverty."

He said the government was doing "the right thing" in bringing in the benefit caps because "people on low and average earnings will realise, at last, that those on benefits will not be able to be paid more in taxes than they themselves earn."

Archbishop Welby later wrote on his blog that he was questioning one aspect of the government's wide-ranging welfare changes, not condemning efforts to make work pay and improve people's livelihoods which he said were, in general, "incredibly brave".

He said Mr Duncan Smith had spent "hard years turning himself into a leading and principled expert on welfare, its effects and shortcomings".

"He is introducing one of the biggest and most thorough reforms of a system that most people admit is shot full of holes, wrong incentives, and incredible complexity."

'Radical redesign'

Other changes to benefits being made in April include:

Grant Shapps: "There's nothing as cruel as a welfare benefits system that traps people into that system"

  • The introduction of a new benefit, the personal independence payment (PIP), to be rolled out across the UK from 8 April to replace disability living allowance (DLA) for people of working age.
  • Less housing benefit from the beginning of April for UK families living in council or housing accommodation judged to be larger than they need. Only those of working age will see reduced payments.
  • A cap from 15 April, in England, Scotland and Wales, on the total amount of benefit working-age people (16-64) can receive

Meanwhile, the government is scaling back some of its plans to test the new Universal Credit, which will gradually - by 2017 - replace five work-based benefits with one benefit, affecting millions of claimants across the UK.

Ministers planned to allow people to make the new claims in four areas of north-west England from April.

But it has emerged that three of the pilots will not start until July.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps told BBC News the existing system had been "rather a cruel one" because "it costs you more, sometimes, to go to work".

"You ought to be able to go out to work and know you're better off without having to spend an hour-and-a-half in front of a Jobcentre Plus computer trying to do calculations as to whether you'll lose this benefit or that benefit.

"That's what we'll get with Universal Credit and and it means that money that is there can be focused on people who most need it."

 

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  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 57.

    Why has the BBC gone for a stereotypical picture of a bloke in a hoodie to represent poor? Why not show a picture of Dionne Warwick or Martine McCutheon since the wealthy are prone to bankruptcy.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 56.

    I wish the church would stop talking with the expectation that people want to hear what they have to say.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 55.

    It is good to see the churches taking a moral stance in defence of some of the most vulnerable. I would like to see the Catholic church make a stand. JQ

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 54.

    benefits should be inversely proportional to the number of job vacancies and the number of immigrant workers in an area. Clears up the argument as to hard workers or hardly workers.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 53.

    I'm amazed that the poor have to pay for the rich. The banks caused this and the conservatives cant even ad a propper transaction tax to cover the poverty they have caused. The government will sell our shres at a loss and also let major corporations get away with not paying tax. Shocking

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 52.

    Hah, our wages are not rising with inflation so why should people who don't work get that? I think these people need to come and meet a couple of people who live round here, on benefits with a car worth several thousand and kids going to expensive clubs - we work and have an old banger of a car and my talented kids can't go to these clubs. They are supporting the wrong sector of the public!!

  • rate this
    +197

    Comment number 51.

    Benefits are for those in need (and preferably those who have put something in too) and should never ever have been allowed to become a lifestyle choice. Successive governments have let us down badly.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 50.

    when we have a conservative government we always see the poorest hit,
    so they can give tax break's to the rich,
    we always see hospital waits rise under the conservatives, because they don't need to use it, and all the saving's will bolster the richest 5%.
    the difference this time is they have been supported by the lib-dems and calamity clegg.
    same old conservatives looking after the rich !!!!!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 49.

    As a carer I have saved this country literally millions compared with the cost of 'battery farm' care provided by profit making institutions that fleece the taxpayer.

    I am now treated as a scrounger who is too lazy to get a job on top of my 24/7/365 care responsibility - and god help me if I ever let anything happen the people I care for.

    Oily Welby now praises Smith.

    Thank you Christian sirs!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 48.

    I can’t say that I’m particularly religious but it seems to me that Jesus Christ was on the side of the poor and oppressed rather than that of the establishment, either civil or religious. If these churches are seeking to follow in his footsteps, then surely they too should be fighting for the underdog against injustice. More power to their elbow on this one!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 47.

    As the trendy vicar said: Let's get the violence off the streets and into the churches where it belongs . . .

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 46.

    My Father has just been sent a referral to transfer him from IB to ESA.
    He has paid into the system all his life but has been unable to work lately.
    He is now 63, suffers from a thickening of the blood, heart failure and severe damage to his brain after a stroke.
    He is suffering from fear and deep anxiety since learning he has to attend a WCA.
    The whole thing is inhumane and a national disgrace.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 45.

    Over to you Christian Conservatives.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 44.

    As others have stated, the simple fact is that this country cannot afford the current size and scale of the welfare system.

    Yes, the wealthy and those others in work need to pay their contributions to those less fortunate, and there has to be a safety net for those who cannot work. Beyond that, it would be interesting to hear from those who receive benefits, as to what should be cut.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 43.

    I think some people have short memories. In the recent past there have been many people abusing the system, because they could and because they could get more money that way than working. They were clever. Some were getting a hundred grand, free house and so on. People complained about benefit scroungers then. There are around 500,000 jobs available in the UK. The gov. must make them accessible.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 42.

    why doesn't the church sell some of the billions of pounds worth of property it owns to help the poor, then?

    Because that would erode some of it's power.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 41.

    30. PB135
    "We are just being brainwashed by these rich tory autocrats"
    As opposed to being brainwashed by a bunch of people that tell you a book written a couple of thousand years is what you should live by?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 40.

    I have noticed that nothing has been said about the 5% increase in salary that the MP's will get this year while everyone else including fire, police and nurses will only get 1% increase. Typical of the Tories who keep doing this yet millions vote for them. If the Government made the banks pay back the "bail out" that they received and fined them 3 years profits we would be in the black..........

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 39.

    Maybe the church could actually make a real difference( without trying to convert anyone), by spending some of its absolutely massive wealth it has. The countries economy is in a really bad state of affairs. It is extremely unfair for people who are trying their hardest working to be getting less than someone who can just sit back and get it for nothing.

  • rate this
    +96

    Comment number 38.

    Nothing makes Easter Sunday like some hypocrisy from organised religion in this country.

 

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