Churches fear welfare reforms will push disadvantaged people further into poverty
The Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church have warned that the UK government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill will fail to get people into work and will instead increase poverty.
In a new report published yesterday, the Churches highlight how the bill threatens to undermine the founding principle of the welfare state, namely that the amount people receive in benefits should be sufficient to meet their basic needs. It argues that the bill will break the link between what a family needs and the amount of support they can receive.
The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, said: “Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission works on the principle of involving people who have direct experience of living with the daily struggle against poverty in contributing to the policy-making process.
“The UK government needs to hear from the people who will be affected, such as the 46 per cent of families affected by the benefit cap who have found themselves in rent arrears.”
The Rt Rev Dr John Armes, Bishop of Edinburgh, said: “This report makes very clear that UK Government benefit cuts are not working. Far from encouraging adults back to work they threaten instead the health and well-being of families with children. This is a moral issue and it undermines the principle on which the Welfare State was founded, namely that people should have sufficient benefits to meet their basic needs.
“I would appeal to the UK government to pay attention to this report and to reconsider its policies in the light of the evidence that their cuts are causing the weakest and poorest in our nation undue suffering.”
The report, ‘Enough: Our responsibility to meet families’ needs’, was published as a partnership between a number of UK churches. As well as the Church of Scotland and Scottish Episcopal Church, the report is backed by the Methodist Church, Quakers in Britain, the United Reformed Church and charity Church Action on Poverty.
Dr Paul Morrison, public issues policy adviser for the Methodist Church and author of the report, said: “As Christians we believe all people are made in God’s image. We do not believe that we should ever deliberately deprive a person, a family, a child of enough to survive, to thrive or to fulfil their God-given potential. We are asking that the welfare state holds to its founding principles, and seeks to provide enough so that every child can have the best chance in life.”