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

    Comment number 77.

    Raise the minimum wage to £10 per hour and the tax free limit to £20,000. This will take millions off of benefits, stimulate the economy, cut the welfare bill and save millions in administration.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    maybe the church will offer to subsidise these benefits from their amassed wealth they got from targeting the vulnerable (gullible) believers in society...

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    The Church should keep its nose out of Politics

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    1. What, so do a few sect leaders now speak for all the deity worshipping fraternity? Somehow I doubt it.

    2. Their messiah might advocate poverty as a virtue, but only a fool truly believes that. Some of the richest people I know call themselves christian

    I'm not against welfare but it should be when absolutely needed, not chosen as a lifestyle by feckless 2nd & 3rd generation dossers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    'WELFARE RECEIPT' and 'SYSTEM ABUSE' are not the same! The reforms will punish the poor, not those who are good at abusing the system.

    The spare bedroom subsidy could actually encourage people to have more children. Also, pushing severely disabled people towards residential care could substantially increase the cost to the tax payer, rather than reduce it.

    This reform will just lead to debt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Anyone who doesn't think there should be a welfare cap must have a screw loose. You can't keep on giving more and more benfits. Look at the chart since 1950. It has to end. Soon benefits will far outstrip what the Govt actually gets in in tax. Then what? There are people who work every day for far less than this cap. Be grateful for the charity you receive. You are NOT entitled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    So is fair to tax someone who is in social housing because suddenly it's too big and despite the fact there is no where smaller to move to while cutting their incomes

    But it is also fair to subsidise the second homes and homes of the children of multi millionaires by up to £120,000 while giving them a £120,000 tax cut.

    It's not just the religious who see this government for what it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.


    The Church may not be relevant to everyones life, but they are often at the sharp end of welfare, providing accommodation for the homeless, soup kitchens for the hungry and care for the sick disabled & mentally ill."

    Not often enough! Sadly the clergy are much more likely to be prancing around in silk & satin in massive buildings which could be accommodating the homeless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Perhaps the church should consider distribution of ITS massive wealth...?


  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    For once I support the church on this issue. Like has been said before, our society spends far too much on welfare, about one third of all government spending. In fact this is one of the reasons why the deficit is so huge.

    The church should though be campaigning on a "living wage", so that businesses can pass on their lowest corporation tax ever to their workers and not their shareholders.

  • Comment number 67.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I am sick of hearing THE TAXPAYER should not support people who might find themselves on a low income or no income ,this can happen for a variety of reasons, redundancy ,low wages, deprived areas with no work or little work such as the old coal mine villages, sickness, accident ,birth defects ,the list is endless, and on top of that I paid an average £1200 month tax before I became ill

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    It backs up what the Govt. Office dealing with statistics was saying weeks ago that the Tories have been manipulating figures to demonise the poor and to show that 'their poverty was their own fault'.

    To get rid of the so-called 'welfare trap' the minimum wage should be raised to £8.75. This will make work pay and will reduce the obscene amounts given to industry to subsidise wages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Benefits are too generous. People cannot claim to be hard up when they smoke and drink alcohol. Benefits should maintain a roof over their heads and ensure basic food is provided. How many people on benefits go abroad in holiday! This cannot continue. My family income has reduced over £250 per month over the last 2 years. We all need to share the pain, not just those that go to work

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    How can people get off benefits and into work when there are no jobs?
    Typical tories rob the poor to feed the rich and look after middle class england or should i say look after the south of england and cut off the rest of the country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Any so called vulnerable people will be protected under the welfare changes. It is the 'bone idle' that this is targeting. As a society we need to stop saying anyone with no money is vulnerable. The high proportion make a life choice not to work as they are better off on benefits and 'bits on the side'. This is a ridiculous situation to be in and well done Mr Cameron and co..

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Perhaps if the church started to promote an ethos of earn thy benefits, things would be a lot better. Instead they are just another organisation wanting to take from those who can and give it to those who won't. Notice I say won't - not to be confused with can't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Introduce a scheme where those that do not contribute to society ( and are able to) do not get benefits.
    Sweeping streets, cleaning the parks , voluntary work etc

    A least some respect might be earned

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    For every undeserving claimant there's probably ten deserving ones, so why don't the government employ people to sort out the people that have no intention of putting something back into society and leave the deserving ones alone.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Welfare cuts are unjust, but this is just a cynical attempt by the CofE to grab headlines and to be seen to support the poor (even though the Church is very wealthy), and the BBC seem to be happy to do this on their behalf - another directive from Mr Patten, perchance?


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