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 357.

    How many times can people say "its the banks fault"? So its not your pension funds who own the backs, or the fault of you wanting another 0.5% interest on your savings that has caused them be greedy? If you all think everything is the banks fault why do they all still have customers? The Co-op is an ethical bank so there are alternatives. No, you need to find a villan rather than look inwards

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    Quotes from the IDS bibles (Orwell's Animal farm and 1984)

    “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984

    “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” 1984

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
    Animal Farm

    I can imagine his evil grin, whilst reading these!

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    I'm glad these churches have come out and spoken against these cuts because they are unjust. There are other areas of the Welfare budget they could cut. The wealthy pensioners who are getting heating allowances and free bus passes is one area. The problem is the benefits aren't going to the people who need them most.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    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

    No one calls you a scounger, we should be giving more to you, but a reduction for those who have never worked in the last 15 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    A number of posters here are claiming there are no jobs. How do you explain the fact that ~ 1 miilion eastern europeans have found jobs in the UK in the last 10 years.
    If the church is so bothered about poverty sell some land and art treasures and give the proceeds to the poor.
    878,000 incapacity claimants have declined interviews and stopped taking the benefits - go figure as the yanks say !

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    The church can politely take a hike, it needs to recognize there's no more money in the pot as it's empty. If it feels so passionately perhaps it should put it's hands deeper in it's own pockets & start splashing the cash at levels the governments doing - see how long it's happy to dole out money with no end or moderation in sight. Stop funding international development, charity starts at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    Nobody would call someone made redundant after a lifetime of work a scrounger Bruxical. That epithet is reserved for households where nobody works by choice. That's where the churches go wrong as well. They lump all claimants together as being deserving which is obviously a falsehood.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    Our society has not been broken down by the media. When you read one paper that says so and so has come to our country and is living off £100k benefits, people assume that is the way everyone is. Then another paper (fuelled by their political views) will say that the other news paper is talking rubbish. I don't have a political stand point because frankly what can be believed any more? Nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    Either all benifits should be means tested and no one should get more than the average wage, if you're earning more than the average wage then no benifits, or, add benifits to income and incorporate them into the income tax system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.


    There is a lobby active on this thread."

    People just don't agree with you. Why is it that the Right, when exposed to the real world and real people, just cannot grasp that not everyone agrees with them and therefore those that don't must be in a conspiracy? Maybe being members of very narrow social groups with limited life experience is something to do with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    I'm wondering when Poverty will get redefined by some group or other to be those on "just" £60,000 per year. There is very little true poverty in this country. Apart from an unlucky few everyone has a roof over their head, food, heating and access to free education to better themselves. I suspect its when the sky sub is unaffordable that many people think they are in poverty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    The people on here criticising claimants and labelling everybody a "scrounger" should think about the likes of me who worked for 43 years and paid in. The idea that it is "only for a short time" in this recession is nonsense. I have been trying for two years to get a job . The "Better Off in Work" you go through, for how much per week you would get is complicated and hard to understand. I am 60.

  • Comment number 345.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    While multinationals avoid billions in tax and directors pocket million plus bonuses, they pay their workers poverty wages leaving the govt to make up the shortfall in housing benefit etc.

    If these companies don't want to pay their taxes, they can re-distribute the money via a living wage (min £12 ph). Something that will save the govt money and benefit everyone by getting the economy moving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    If "real" wages hadn't declined so dramatically in the last 40 years, the benefit bill would be far less.

    Rather than cutting benefits to 'make work pay' How about raise wages to make work pay?

    The wealthest get carrots (tax cut) The poorest get sticks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Jesus said,"The poor you will always have with you." Matthew 26:11

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    I work closely with people on benefits and, co-incidentally, with homeless people. A huge portion of benefit claimants choose to live on benefits because they can maintain their existence without having to lift a finger. Others use benefits to survive because of alcohol and drug related issues which they choose to do nothing about. Means-test claimants and only give to those who are genuine!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    And who elected the Church? What mandate do they have to iinterfere with political decisions made by (like it or not) elected politicians

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    People don't seem to have cottoned on that one day, even after decades of work and success having paid fortunes in tax, it might be THEM who need benefits and help. Whatever we do to reform benefits it has to be based on more than just a sense of envy that people are apparently getting something for nothing and that claimants are all forcibly lazy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    Perhaps the super rich Catholic Church could help make up the shortfall instead of scrounging more money from people!


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