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 177.

    I would agree that using the poor to give the rich a tax cut and bail out the banks is unfair and unjust, but the tories are in power, so it shouldn't come as a surprise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    (Bible) James 5: "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter."

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Why dont the churches sell off some of their assets to help their followers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    Blondie.....the Church are very Tory too...

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    The churches are right.
    Many politicians and media barons have put it about that the poor are workshy layabouts. In 9 out of ten cases that is not true.
    Most people on benefits are honest, hardworking people desperately trying to find a job yet keep getting turned down!
    Lets stop looking for scapegoats and instead lets have some construction projects to create jobs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    The cutting of welfare benefits is not good when at the same time millionaires are getting a 5% tax cut.
    But what do you expect from the nasty party, this an ideological attack on the poor in their continuing "class war" against us all, which is driven by there desire to pay little or no tax at all.
    Only little people pay taxes remember!

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    Nice choice of image BBC: anonymous hooded figures in a bleak, alienating environment represent 'welfare recipients' . There's a not-so-subtly-employed 'othering' at work here and it's a depressingly familiar thing on this site. I look forward to a time when the casual disgust aimed at people on low incomes, benefit recipients and those in social housing is remembered with a deep sense of shame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    I am a poor and needy pensioner. I worked in low paid jobs all my life paid my way and saved for my retirement. Now my savings produced little income and my modest private pension is a pitiful shadow of what I had hoped. There are people on this road who have never worked and have no intention of working and are far better off than I am. Why did I ever bother.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.


    I hope you never have to receive a benefit.
    You have no idea how the poor live and their circumstances.
    There will always be the rich and the poor, that is a part of life.
    Its not for us to question why they are poor,cant cope or why they live life differently to other,s.
    Society makes certain there are rich and poor ! and even more so now
    try & live on £5.00 a week for food

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    A lot is going wrong here! The churches dont regularly organise meals for the poor. The government wants to keep the bankers that ruined us. The working class then loses out the most as it is expected to pay for the bankers' mess and the meals for the poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Worked all my life.Last year they closed the factory giving us the minimum redundancy they could get away with. I'm 56, desperate for work, and willing to do anything. Yet the government call me a scrounger. Thanks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    about time others started to say the truth the condems are only out for themselves and don't care how much harm they do to this co8untry as long as they get more more more and everyone else gets less

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    @ 87. mark1 -- before cuts on the poor "need" to be made, as you say, the government should first recoup the £11 billion pounds in taxes that have gone unpaid by corporations, foreign and domestic. Get the rich corps to pay what they owe first before asking the poor to shoulder the burden of getting the country out of the sinkhole.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    Just another publicity stunt. It's ok to say the rich shud burden more of the tax but it's not ok to ask the poor to make sacrifices?

    We live in a society hell bent on supporting the lazy ppl! I'm sick of seeing able ppl living the 'good life' whilst I slay away at work, while they stroll around!

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    The C of E is one of of largest landowners and if they are so appalled by the cuts should open their coffers to the poor & needy. Agreed this might be difficult when we go the way of Cyprus within 2-4 years unless the IMF saves us in the meantime. Tough times are here to stay whatever our politics and governments. Unfortunate but reality. It is silly to pretend otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.


    Benefits are meant as a safety net and not a way of life."

    Why do people keep trotting that out? It's completely meaningless, just like 'off benefits and into work'. You are shouting at the wrong people, the problem is unemployment, and that is not created by the unemployed it is created by consumers who'd rather import to save a bob than help their neighbours.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    If the churches are unhappy then they can replace the tax payer and hand out money to the workshy and the feckless.

    The churches have enough land and art treasures to pay benefits for quite some time

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    “@Goober123 - How can you say this isn't Labour Fault. They borrowed for 10 years to built a massive Welfare state”

    But they didn’t did they, look it up. It is yet more lies from the Tory’s to justify their Dickensian policy’s and persecution of the poor


  • rate this

    Comment number 159.


    You have a very apt name. I doubt very much this is what IDS meant.

    As for workhouses they saved many lives although they were perhaps not the optimum solution. One of my great-great-grandfathers was born in the Luton Union workhouse and named after a dead elder brother who had died from hunger just after he arrived there.

    To play your game: would you then deny food for the starving?

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    An unsurprising response to the last Labour government's cynical approach to welfare - massive increases in benefits to many who did not need it, hoping that they will vote Labour in the future and that there will be a huge outcry when economic sense prevails and dictates that such benefits are deemed unsustainable by a following government.


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