The social action arm of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has warned that the Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill will "hurt the poorest individuals and families in our society" by capping benefit increases significantly below inflation.
The strongly-worded statement from CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network) came ahead of the Bill’s Second Reading debate in Parliament, which was passed despite strong opposition from welfare campaigners.
The statement follows recent calls by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, for parliamentarians to “ensure a safety net is always in place to protect essentials such as food and shelter for those who fall on hard times”.
CSAN Chief Executive Helen O’Brien commented: “Benefit payments should always be sufficient to cover the basics of family life including housing, meals, heating and clothing. Already we are seeing a serious number of cases where this is simply not happening, and today’s move will leave even more people struggling to afford such fundamental necessities.”
Drawing attention to the long-term risks she added: “This Bill will make short-term cost savings but it will hurt the poorest individuals and families in our society, creating greater human and economic costs in the future.”
Rosemary Keenan, CEO of the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster), one of CSAN’s member charities working with poorer families in Greater London emphasised that the Bill will impact upon working families as well as the unemployed.
Ms Keenan declared: “It is hard for many of us to imagine what it is like for a mother to only have £1 left and know she still has to feed her children before the next payday. Families facing in-work poverty rely upon Working Tax Credits and other benefits to help make ends meet, and will face serious hardship as a result of these restrictions.”
CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network) is the official social action arm of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.
* More on CSAN: http://csan.org.uk