Benefit changes make April fools of us all, say Churches

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

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, theUnited Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland also say thatpoliticians and the media have misrepresented those who receivebenefits as well as people experiencing poverty, in order tojustify spending cuts.

"These cuts make April fools of us all," said Paul Morrison,Public Issues Policy Adviser. "We are witnessing what happens whenwe create a culture that blames poor people for their poverty. Itis a lie to say that most people on benefits are lazy, that theyhave an easy life or that they are responsible for the nation'sfinancial 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 introducedin April are:

  • The transition of Disability Living Allowance to PersonalIndependence Payment. This involves the planned reduction ofsupport to this group by 20% together with a new test, similar tothe discreditedWork Capability Assessment. 
  • The total benefit cap. This will be rolled out in four Londonlocal authorities, before being imposed on the rest of the country.This measure affects poor children disproportionately as they arenine times more likely than adults to be affected. The average cutof £93 a week will be devastating to many of the quarter of amillion people living in affected families.
  • The 'Bedroom Tax'. Thiswill affect around a third of all families in social housing - overtwo million people. Only working age families will be affected. Theaverage cost will be £14 a week, or £16 a week for housingassociation tenants.
  • Most benefits received by working age families and childrenwill be up-rated at around a third of the rate of inflation,resulting in a real-terms cut in payments. This will affect thosein low paid work and those out of work - including the majority ofpeople unable to work because of illness or disability. The poorestin society - those who are on the very edge - will find life thatlittle bit harder year on year because of this measure.

"Some families will experience the effects of more than one ofthese measures," added Mr Morrison. "It is worrying that there areno Government estimates for the number of people who may beaffected by two or three of these cuts at once."

In their report, The lies we tellourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty, the Churchessay that statistics have been manipulated and misused bypoliticians and the media to support the belief that the poorsomehow deserve their poverty, and therefore deserve the cuts. Thereport has been sent to every UK MP and Member of the ScottishParliament in Britain and people are being encouraged to write totheir parliamentary representative asking how they will be usingthe information to better inform policy-making.

"But this isn't just a problem for politicians or the media," MrMorrison continued. "When ordinary people allow myths about povertyto go unchallenged, whether it's in the pub or the newspapers, weall become complicit in a great injustice."


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