Benefit changes make April fools of us all, say Churches

Tomorrow sees the start of a series of cuts to benefits that will hit Britain's poorest people the hardest. Four major Churches, representing more than one million people across Britain, say that the cuts are unjust and that the most vulnerable will pay a disproportionate price in the Government's austerity measures. 

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland also say that politicians and the media have misrepresented those who receive benefits as well as people experiencing poverty, in order to justify spending cuts.

"These cuts make April fools of us all," said Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser. "We are witnessing what happens when we create a culture that blames poor people for their poverty. It is a lie to say that most people on benefits are lazy, that they have an easy life or that they are responsible for the nation's financial deficit. When people are willing to believe those lies, poor families pay the highest price."

Some of the key changes to the benefits system to be introduced in April are:

  • The transition of Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment. This involves the planned reduction of support to this group by 20% together with a new test, similar to the discredited Work Capability Assessment. 
  • The total benefit cap. This will be rolled out in four London local authorities, before being imposed on the rest of the country. This measure affects poor children disproportionately as they are nine times more likely than adults to be affected. The average cut of £93 a week will be devastating to many of the quarter of a million people living in affected families.
  • The 'Bedroom Tax'. This will affect around a third of all families in social housing - over two million people. Only working age families will be affected. The average cost will be £14 a week, or £16 a week for housing association tenants.
  • Most benefits received by working age families and children will be up-rated at around a third of the rate of inflation, resulting in a real-terms cut in payments. This will affect those in low paid work and those out of work - including the majority of people unable to work because of illness or disability. The poorest in society - those who are on the very edge - will find life that little bit harder year on year because of this measure.

"Some families will experience the effects of more than one of these measures," added Mr Morrison. "It is worrying that there are no Government estimates for the number of people who may be affected by two or three of these cuts at once."

In their report, The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty, the Churches say that statistics have been manipulated and misused by politicians and the media to support the belief that the poor somehow deserve their poverty, and therefore deserve the cuts. The report has been sent to every UK MP and Member of the Scottish Parliament in Britain and people are being encouraged to write to their parliamentary representative asking how they will be using the information to better inform policy-making.

"But this isn't just a problem for politicians or the media," Mr Morrison continued. "When ordinary people allow myths about poverty to go unchallenged, whether it's in the pub or the newspapers, we all become complicit in a great injustice."

Notes 

  1. Read the Churches' full report and take action here
  2. Paul Morrison is available for interview - contact a member of the Media Service.
  3. A hi-res image of Paul is available here
  4. Follow the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #liesaboutpoverty.

 

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