Three of the UK's largest Christian Churches have slammed government proposals to change the way that poverty is measured. The Methodist Church, Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church (URC) said that the proposals continue a trend of blaming the poor for their own poverty.
“These proposals risk further stigmatising the poor in the eyes of voters and the media,” said Paul Morrison, Public Issues Adviser for the Methodist Church.
“It is universally acknowledged that poverty is a relative concept," he added. "These proposals seek to undermine the idea that relative poverty matters, by focusing on other issues. At its worst it will seek to measure the 'faults' of the poor, further blaming them for poverty."
In 2006, David Cameron promised to measure poverty in relative terms, which take account of what people need to live on. But announcements made yesterday (14 June) signal a definitive shift away from this focus, with plans to measure poverty in terms of drug addiction, homelessness and unemployment, rather than income levels.
Morrison said that new measures “relate more to the government’s perception of poor people than to the real scale of poverty”.
The three churches acknowledged that factors such as addiction are important, but they point out that they affect only a small minority of poor people and cannot be considered a measure of poverty.
“We are called to stand alongside the poorest and most vulnerable in society,” insisted Morrison, who accused the government of avoiding the real issues. He added, “Recession, low pay and decreasing benefits are driving poverty and none of these are the fault of the poor”.
The three churches, along with a number of other denominations and faith groups, support the Living Wage Campaign, which calls for every worker in the country to be able to earn enough to provide their family with the essentials of life.
The incident marks the latest Christian attack on the UK government's economic policies. Ministers' proposals for cuts have come under repeated attack from the Methodists, Baptists and the URC, and more occasionally from the Church of Scotland, Quakers, Salvation Army and a number of Anglican and Catholic bishops.