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 217.

    "A series of changes to benefits are being made in April". Is grammar completely unmoderated on the BBC?

    As for the article, it is the rich sitting on mountatins of wealth and living off interest, dividends and their exploitation of the poor who are lazy. Raise inheritance tax to 100% and iron out the inequalities once and for all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Simple stop paying people not to work ! stop the benifit system all together ... invest the Billions saved in to creating industry and jobs ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    To those that say the "Church" should mind it's own business.

    The "Church" are the people who attend it, they live in this society the same as the rest of us, yes they have "faith" but that harms no one.

    Everyone is entitled to express opinion, including members of the Church.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    If 'Churches' paid business rates on their properties, perhaps there would be more cash in the system (it could be ring-fenced for welfare) to help.

    The legal basis for the exemption is contained in paragraph 11 of the 5th Schedule to the Local Government Finance Act 1988

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    How incredibly hypocritical of the church. It sits on vast fortunes, benefits for enormous tax breaks whilst spouting off that tax payer funded government should pay out more in benefits.

  • Comment number 212.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    how is it everyone knows how wealthy these churches are? Are you sure you're not confusing them with the Church of England/Catholic church and just making ill informed generalisations?

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Churches should pay taxes to pay for welfare if they want to put their money where their mouth is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    Fine robes, gold, silver, incense, Bishops Palace, towering shrines & vast wealth of the Church. All garnered from the populace. Also unjust?

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    This move by the Church is pure pious hand-wringing. The new Archbishop knows more than most that money does not just fall out of the sky, the country is not yet paying its way and the nation is putting itself more and more in the hands of the money lenders. Borrowing more money from international money lenders to give to the poor is not a moral position.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    The tories have created a society thats turned in on itself the hatred and spite that rears its ugly head when benefits are mention in whatever context is terrible just have to read some of the comments on here to realise that, of course the fact that the majority of benefits are paid to WORKING peopl is not important as long as they find reasons to hate the poor and needy . Dread the future!

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    The work ethic is something to be proud of, isn't it, isn't it? If tomorrow we invented self-servicing robots to wait on us hand foot and finger would it be sensible for all to keep working? If so, what would they do? Half of us dig holes and half fill them in? People seem to do nothing but work. Do we work to live or live to work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    What they really mean is that welfare cuts will reduce their collections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    The people in power and their mates in the gutter press pushing their propaganda are absolute filth. Will I be expected to care when society's smuggos start getting affected by what desperate people are prepared to do to survive. I'm afraid I won't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    The problem of the huge welfare bill has at last been dealt with. It may not be perfect, but with Britain having the highest numbers on incapacity benefit in Europe action was called for. There is no 'bedroom tax' but there is a 'reduction in benefits' for those living in housing too big for their needs. Of course I do not agree that this should happen where there is no suitable alternative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    The church are very quick to take from the poor of their congregation when the plate is passed around at a service.

    Maybe they should lead by example and actually give something to the poor. Don't think I've ever seen that in the UK from the church.

    I always thought that's what Christianity was all about.

    Not politics, how did that happen?

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    I received a letter about potential Chancel Liability, meaning that by owning a house I'd then be responsible for the upkeep of the church roof. The church has done nothing to remove this burden on society, raking in money, yet they are so keen to issue dictates on how the countries money should be spent. Perhaps if they went off and raised their own money then they could spend it as they choose

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Labour are just "Tory-Lite" as PFI came in on their watch,hopefull ED will get back to their roots,and Clegg has sold his parties soul for a limo.
    Until the people have a party that actually stands up for the man on the street the church has to be our voice standing up for a fairer society.
    But unfortunately Politicians don't listen to anyone apart from their financial backers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    "in some cases more than double the average household income." Where can I get these benefits!? It's almost as if they think living on £71 a week while between jobs is possible! I've worked every day of my adult life since Uni. Not my fault HBOS got bailed out and I lost my job in remortgaging because of it! This is nothing more than Social Darwinism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    I wonder which is more unjust
    1) Expecting people who can work to make some effort rather than using the benefits system as a career choice
    2) Having rules in place which stop women from getting promoted above a certain level (rules that would be illegal in any other industry)

    The church should make sure their own house is in order first.


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