Archbishop says benefit changes will hit the poorest hardest
- 11 Mar
The Archbishop of Canterbury expresses concern that the new benefit changes will be damaging for children and families.
Iain Duncan Smith has dismissed this claim as he says the old system was 'out of control' and needed the change.
Justin Welby, the head of the Church of England, has warned that benefit changes, such as capping the rise of benefits to 1% instead of rising with inflation, will make the most vulnerable suffer.
He is one of 43 bishops who have written an open letter to a newspaper condemning Government plans to change the benefits system, saying it will have a “deeply disproportionate” effect on children.
He has urged the government to consider the most vulnerable, as this move will not support families that are already struggling:
As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need.
When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish. It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing.
The current benefits system does that, by ensuring that the support struggling families receive rises with inflation.
These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the government.
This is his first political intervention since taking office, and has not been very well received by Iain Duncan Smith, who said:
I have no issue with the Church of England, with the bishops, for them to say whatever they believe.
It's quite right and proper. They should try and argue with us and put pressure on us over a number of issues.
[...] I always listen to everybody who gives me advice. I don't necessarily follow it.
This is about fairness. People who are paying taxes, working very hard, have hardly seen any increases in their salary and yet, under the last government, the welfare bill rose by some 60% to £200bn.
There is nothing moral or fair about a system that I inherited that trapped people in welfare dependency. Some one in every five households has no work - that's not the way to end child poverty.
Figures from the Children's Society says that, under the changes, a single parent earning £530 a week would lose £424 a year by 2015 and a couple with two children, where one parent is working and earning £600 a week, would also lose £424 a year.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said:
In difficult economic times we've protected the incomes of pensioners and disabled people, and most working age benefits will continue to increase [by] 1%.
This was a tough decision but it's one that will help keep the welfare bill sustainable in the longer term.
By raising the personal allowance threshold, we've lifted 2 million people out of tax altogether, clearly benefiting people on a low income.
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