12 September 2011

"Scrap the Cap" say UK Churches as Lords debate Welfare Reform Bill

Methodist and United Reformed Churches are urging the House of Lords to ask the Government to scrap plans to cap benefits payments at £500 per week when they debate the Welfare Reform Bill tomorrow.

Under new legislation the Government is seeking to cap benefits payments at £500 per week, regardless of the need or size of the family receiving the payments.

"Why are cuts to UK spending being targeted at the most vulnerable in society, rather than those more able to pay?" asked Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church in Britain. "These plans will radically change the nature of our benefits system for the worse. Instead of a system which is based on people's circumstances it will become a system that is intentionally blind to the needs of hundreds of thousands of people."

The Churches cite evidence that the benefit capping policy is part of a package of policies which will lead to a reduction in the living standards of the poorest much more than those of the richest. The Institute for Fiscal Studies have produced authoritative data showing that the poorest in society will see a 12% reduction in cash terms in their already low living standards, compared with only 4% for those in the wealthiest 10% of society.

"This is blatantly unjust," said Simon Loveitt, Public Issues Spokesperson for the United Reformed Church. "These effects are contrary to the commitments that the Government has already made to those most vulnerable. A rethink of benefit cap policy is urgently required to protect the life chances of children and adults across our nation."

The Children's Society has produced data showing that the least well off children will be disproportionately affected. Their data, based on the Government's own figures, shows that:
• Children will be 9 times more likely to be affected by benefit caps than adults.
• 69,000 adults and 206,000 children will have their household incomes reduced by an average of £93 a week.
• 27,000 adults and 82,000 children will be made homeless, based on figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government.
• Children already living in poverty are likely to be pushed into severe poverty - living in households on less than 40% of average income.

"The Government has spoken of creating incentives for families to stay together but benefit caps create perverse incentives for family breakup," continued Rachel Lampard, Joint Public Issues Team Leader. "Under the new measures, a family with four children would be better off if it split into two single-parent households. It is on all these grounds that we urge members of the House of Lords to ask the Government to reconsider the Benefit Capping measure contained within the Welfare Reform Bill."

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