‘Let’s get the facts straight’. Yes, Mr Cameron, please do.

  • Government stats misleading on Monday, wrong on Wednesday
  • Prime Minister neither understands his own figures nor the realconsequences of welfare reform, say Churches

Four major British Churches have criticised David Cameron forneither understanding his Government's own figures nor recognisingthe reality of more and more people facing destitution.

The Church of Scotland, Baptist Union of Great Britain,Methodist Church, United Reformed Church and charity HousingJustice, which collectively represent more than a million people,have responded to an article by the Prime Minister in today's Daily Telegraph. In the piece, Mr Cameron claims thatthe number of workless households doubled over the last decade,when ONS data shows that they increased from 3.7 million in 1997 to3.9 million in 2010, not 7.4 million as his claim wouldsuggest.

"Mr Cameron repeats tired and discredited numbers which paint aninaccurate picture of 'welfare dependent' families spending yearson benefits and receiving huge amounts of money," said PaulMorrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser and author of The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths aboutpoverty, a report dispelling six common myths aboutpoverty.

The Prime Minister stated that that almost a million and a halfpeople spent the last decade out of work. He did not mention thatmost of these people were sick or carers. Only 1,000 wereunemployed for a decade - the remainder were unable to work due toillness or caring responsibilities. According to the government'sown statistics, more people received benefits due to terminalillness and yet survived for a decade, than were unemployed for adecade.

He also spoke of people claiming 'unlimited amounts of housingbenefit' and yet in 2010 only 0.01% of households received morethan £40,000 in housing benefit. In the same year, more than halfof housing benefit claims were for less than £4,000 for theyear.

"If Mr Cameron can't even understand his own figures, how willhe ever grasp the reality of UK poverty?" added Mr Morrison. "Wehave spent this past year campaigning and writing to Mr Cameron and his ministers about how hisGovernment's misuse of statistics denigrates the poor - and we haveyet to receive either explanation or correction. 

"It is disappointing that the response to the Archbishop hasbeen characterised by misleading numbers from the DWP Press Office on Monday and straightforwardly untrue numbersfrom the Prime Minister on Wednesday.

"Last year half a million people relied on foodbanks, this yearwe expect that number to be much higher. The key question - whyChurches and charities are seeing more people in abject destitution- remains unanswered.

"Mr Cameron says he wants to stick to the facts, and that is thefact he urgently needs to address."