The chair of the Church of England charity, the Church Urban Fund (CUF), has criticised punitive government welfare cuts and the emaciation of the vision behind the welfare state.
Writing in the Observer newspaper, the Ven Paul Hackwood, chair of CUF, says: "If we want to preserve our society and the social bonds that tie us together, we need to help people survive shocks and provide them with a level of income at which they can preserve their dignity.
"We must hold firm to the Beveridge principle that our social insurance system should provide a minimum standard of living 'below which no one should be allowed to fall'," he adds.
Hackwood, who is Anglican Archdeacon of Loughborough and Canon Residentiary at Leicester Cathedral, believes that the massive cuts the government is making to welfare and benefits "are clearly aimed at the unemployed and those in work but on low incomes."
Far from encouraging people into work while protecting the most vulnerable, their impact is to discourage people and expose them to damaging economic effects.
"[T]he latest figures show that 60 per cent of people living in poverty are working, while some 6.4 million people in the UK are underemployed and cannot find the work they want (Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2012). Work is not paying," he writes.
Archdeacon Hackwood says that pushing millions outside "the social contract that holds us all together... is a dangerous game."
Hea elaborates: "I was out in communities in Middlesbrough and Bradford with development managers from Church Urban Fund, the Church of England charity I chair. The effect of these cuts is not a renewed motivation or sense of purpose, but, rather, a greater sense of hopelessness and a palpable fear for the future."
"We are mobilising in the churches," says the chair of the CUF. "We have been setting up food banks, debt advice centres, support services for destitute asylum seekers and programmes for the young, jobless poor. Yet reduced provision in public services, the effects of the recession and the cuts in benefits already in place mean that the work we do in communities is coming under increasing strain."
"At Church Urban Fund, we are developing the Together Network, working with dioceses around the country to develop a creative response to poverty in England. We seek to build a movement of people who are committed to supporting those in poverty, strengthening our communities and affirming our social bonds," he concludes.
Each year CUF supports over 300 church and Christian projects tackling poverty in England. It aims to work with the poorest and most marginalised in the country; to help transform lives; to galvanise time, money, action and prayer; and to make the Church's response more effective.
The Church Urban Fund was originally set up out of the high-profile 'Faith in the City' report of 1985, produced by the then Archbishops' Commission on Urban Priority Areas (ACUPA).
* Read the full article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/08/benefit-cuts-condemn...
* Church Urban Fund: http://www.cuf.org.uk/