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 157.

    So, what is the church doing to provide growth and jobs? You can only volunteer working for the church, unless you're a priest, isn't it. Maybe they should start paying people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.

    Quote //88. Kano ... its time for the stick approach, where life on benefits has to be made tough to force people into finding work.//

    And if there were Jobs to be had, do you not think the able bodied would be applying for them?

    A National supermarket opened a new Store near where I live, for every job there were 200 applicants..

    Don't tell me its raining and pee up my back!

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I'm just shocked how stupid people can be! The government have brain washed peoples minds into thinking benefits is a dirty word! now theirs suddenly a hatred towards the poorest people which has been created by this government! And yet no one complains about sending money to war torn places and so on! I hope people wake up to this governments dirty tricks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    whats ridiculous is paying IDS an army pension when hes not even reached retirement age. will he give it up i wonder considering hes extorting money as a govt minister?

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    "a massive welfare state"

    This is incorrect - the UK pays less out in welfare benefits (as a % of GDP) than France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, and the Netherlands.

    The Tories just use this as an excuse to further their political ends. The church calling the Tories unjust is a bit like calling bananas yellow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    What bugs me the most is parents, especially the rich, receiving incentives and subsidies for dropping sprogs into this overcrowded world, funded by taxpayers, especially the poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Once again nobody gets it. Some people make it a Lifestyle choice so everyone suffers. Who is going to pay for benefits anyway? And don't say rich as when taxes go up tax take goes down FACT. Read your history books.
    No one knows what will happen until all the changes have gone through. The system is broke Nd needs fixing. Badly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    This government started the rumor that all the unemployed are Lazy to get the people at each others throats in a,( Divide and conquer maneuver, which seems to be working). Well for every lazy unemployed person, there are thousands that are not lazy and unemployed who where made redundant after years of hard work. DON'T BE FOOLED by all this government says.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    If the councils responsible for implementing the spare room cuts in housing benefits do not have sufficient suitable alternative accommodation that complies with the governments criteria for those that request a move then no reduction in that benefit should be implemented, the sale of council housing stock into private ownership has created this shortage of social housing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    If companies were made to pay a living wage then we would not be paying so much in welfare.All that is happening is that welfare payments help comanies to employ people on low wages.If you have a job it should pay enough to live on without the taxpayer having to make up the difference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    It costs lots of money to bomb innocent people (iraq,afganistan). No oil or gold as plan did not work out, they do not give up-would any of us. Now they need to fill banks up to build more weapons so the poor suffer again. Try these criminals in court,strip their wealth and share it. SIMPLES. Open your eyes the enemy is here. BLAIR AND BUSH

  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    I'm amazed that the poor have to pay for the rich.
    They don't. It wasn't their money in the first place,

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Churches are just jumping on the band waggon in a pathetic attempt to make themselves relevant again. Stick to your make believe fairy stories and leave the politics to those who know what they are talking about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    "Leaders of club use public position in unrelated arena to push political agenda". Nothing new there then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    120. Steve
    I agree with the church - for all those trying to get jobs its unfair. But the truth is that many aren't trying to get jobs.
    Could you provide proof for that statement or is it just assumption, and therefore pointless?

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    I hope the DWP staff that are alleged to have got easter eggs for refusing people benefits are enjoying them today.

    Why doesnt the spare bedrooms tax apply to MP's allowances ?

    They are also a " burden " on the tax payer and "we" must help "wean" them off this something for nothing "culture" that has grown up.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    This benefit system going out control so i think let gov to sort this out

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    I remember when Cameron was campaigning he said quote " We will not rebuild the country on the backs of the poorest." I now know he is a man that would not know the truth and has never spoken the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    Of course if the church paid tax, there might be a bit more cash to go around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    If employers when bidding for work would cost in real costs instead of being subsidised by the state re working tax credits etc, then employees would receive enough not to claim any form of benefit. !!!


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