Church leaders say benefit cap will make UK a darker, less humane place for us all

The Methodist Church, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, theUnited Reformed Church and the Quakers in Britain have called forParliament to hold to the humane principles of the welfare stateand reject a benefit cap. Church leaders said that the principle ofa cap was flawed and would inevitably put vulnerable families atrisk of poverty and homelessness.

The Revd Roberta Rominger, General Secretary of the United ReformedChurch, said: "The principle that all who play by the rules shouldreceive enough to meet their basic needs has been at the heart ofthe welfare system for 65 years; if the benefit cap becomes lawthat principle will be destroyed. Only families whose basic needsare less than £500 per week will be safe. Families who have greaterneeds, however rare, will be left behind."

The Churches agreed with the Government that the vast majority offamilies require less than £26,000 to meet their basic needs.Church leaders said that when a family qualifies for more than£26,000 in benefit, it is because the means testing rules havefound exceptional need. If these rules give too high a level ofentitlement, then the rules themselves need to be changed. Theyadded that an assumption that no family can ever need more than£26,000 was contradicted by every reputable piece of availableevidence.

The Revd Leo Osborn, President of the Methodist Conference, said:"We regret much of the tone of the debate around welfare reformespecially where it has encouraged people to blame the worklesspoor for their struggles. Rising unemployment, the deficit and flateconomic performance are not the fault of the poor, nor willcapping benefits solve these problems or realise any significantsavings for HM Treasury."

The Revd Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary of the Baptist Unionof Great Britain, said: "Minimising the struggles of the workless,implying a high standard of living where there is none, andtrivialising the problems of homelessness further pollute thedebate. A benefit system which deliberately ignores the needs of avulnerable minority will make the UK a darker and less humane placeto live in."

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for the Quakers in Britain, said: "Weknow the Government intends to make cuts, but we object to it beingat the expense of those who are unable to work. We challenge thebenefit cap which takes no regard of family size and could splitfamilies. It is a principle of the welfare state that those whomeet the strict criteria for benefit should receive them. Thewelfare cap is a blunt and cruel instrument for reducing thedeficit. We consider that the test by which proposed governmentcuts should be judged is the impact that they have onequality."