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

Methodist and United Reformed Churches are urging the House ofLords to ask the Government to scrap plans to cap benefits paymentsat £500 per week when they debate the Welfare Reform Billtomorrow.

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

"Why are cuts to UK spending being targeted at the most vulnerablein society, rather than those more able to pay?" asked PaulMorrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church inBritain. "These plans will radically change the nature of ourbenefits system for the worse. Instead of a system which is basedon people's circumstances it will become a system that isintentionally blind to the needs of hundreds of thousands ofpeople."

The Churches cite evidence that the benefit capping policy is partof a package of policies which will lead to a reduction in theliving standards of the poorest much more than those of therichest. The Institute for Fiscal Studies have producedauthoritative data showing that the poorest in society will see a12% reduction in cash terms in their already low living standards,compared with only 4% for those in the wealthiest 10% ofsociety.

"This is blatantly unjust," said Simon Loveitt, Public IssuesSpokesperson for the United Reformed Church. "These effects arecontrary to the commitments that the Government has already made tothose most vulnerable. A rethink of benefit cap policy is urgentlyrequired to protect the life chances of children and adults acrossour nation."

The Children's Society has produced data showing that the leastwell 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 benefitcaps than adults.
• 69,000 adults and 206,000 children will have their householdincomes reduced by an average of £93 a week.
• 27,000 adults and 82,000 children will be made homeless, based onfigures from the Department for Communities and LocalGovernment.
• Children already living in poverty are likely to be pushed intosevere poverty - living in households on less than 40% of averageincome.

"The Government has spoken of creating incentives for families tostay together but benefit caps create perverse incentives forfamily breakup," continued Rachel Lampard, Joint Public Issues TeamLeader. "Under the new measures, a family with four children wouldbe better off if it split into two single-parent households. It ison all these grounds that we urge members of the House of Lords toask the Government to reconsider the Benefit Capping measurecontained within the Welfare Reform Bill."