Stop blaming the poor for poverty, say Churches

The Methodist Church, Baptist Union of Great Britain and UnitedReformed Church are accusing the Government of continuing a trendof blaming the poor as new proposals to redefine poverty areannounced.

In 2006, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to measure povertyin relative terms, which take account of what people need to liveon. But announcements made today signal a definitive shift awayfrom this focus, with plans to measure poverty in terms of drugaddiction, homelessness and unemployment, rather than incomelevels.

"These proposals risk further stigmatising the poor in the eyes ofvoters and the media," said Paul Morrison, Public Issues Adviserfor the Methodist Church. "It is universally acknowledged thatpoverty is a relative concept. These proposals seek to underminethe idea that relative poverty matters, by focusing on otherissues. At its worst it will seek to measure the 'faults' of thepoor, further blaming them for poverty.

"We are called to stand alongside the poorest and most vulnerablein society. By focusing on issues like addiction, which onlyaffects a tiny minority of people who are poor, the Government isblaming the poor for poverty and detracting from the real issues.Recession, low pay and decreasing benefits are driving poverty andnone of these are the fault of the poor."

"These new measures relate more to the Government's perception ofpoor people than to the real scale of poverty," added Mr Morrison."Factors like addiction are important, but they are not a measureof poverty."

The Churches support the Living Wage Campaign, which calls forevery worker in the country to be able to earn enough to providetheir family with the essentials of life.