Charities, church groups and trade unions have combined to call on the government to stop punishing the poorest through its economic and welfare policies.
Some 45 NGOs have signed a joint letter published in the Observer newspaper (9 December 2012) coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the ground-breaking Beveridge Report on welfare.
The groups, who include Church Action on Poverty and the churches' housing and homelessness coalition, Housing Justice, say that current austerity policies are not only hitting the most vulnerable hardest, they are also threatening even the existence of a 'safety net' for the poorest.
Labour leader Ed Milliband has finally responded to initiatives against government cuts and recessionary policies coming from civil society. He says his opposition party will organise a House of Commons showdown with the Chancellor and "wage war over benefit cuts".
But Mr Milliband has so far declined to say that Labour will vote against the cuts they are criticising.
Meanwhile, the Ven Paul Hackwood, Anglican Archdeacon of Loughborough and Canon Residentiary at Leicester Cathedral, who is also chair of the Church of England's Church Urban Fund (CUF), has also condemned benefit cuts and called for the UK to hold firm to the Beveridge principle, in an article in the same newspaper.
The joint Observer letter from NGOs declares: "Economic analysis of the government's announcements shows clearly that the poorest have been hit hardest. Plans to cap increases in benefits and tax credits at a meagre one per cent for the next three years will far outweigh any gains from increasing the personal tax allowance. This will hurt children, leaving a damaging legacy."
It continues: "While the chancellor paints a picture of so-called 'strivers' and 'skivers', our organisations see the reality: families scraping by in low-paid work, or being bounced from insecure jobs to benefits and back again."
"The truth is that the vast majority of those who rely on benefits and tax credits are either in work, have worked, or will be in work in the near future," the charities, church groups and unions point out.
The message has been backed by the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, which advocates and researches around a range of social and ethical issues from a Christian veiwpoint.
Writing in the forthcoming issue of the Christian social comment magazine Third Way, co-director Simon Barrow, says: "In the recent spending review, tax changes hit those at the top by around £1 billion. But this is a drop in an ocean of wealth. By contrast, nearly four times as much money, some £3.7 billion, was cut from the incomes of the poorest, increasing inequality and social division yet further."
* Full text of the letter: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17569
* 'Osbornomics punishes those with least the most', by Simon Barrow: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/17554