Church leaders demand government apology for 'misrepresenting the poor'

By staff writers
June 7, 2013

An alliance of 11 churches, including the Methodist Church, the Quakers and the Church of Scotland, has written to the Prime Minister demanding "an apology on behalf of the government for misrepresenting the poor."

The church leaders were responding to claims by Grant Shapps, Conservative Party Chairman and Minister without Portfolio, that "nearly a million people" on incapacity benefit dropped their claims, rather than face medical assessment for the employment and support allowance, and by Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, that nearly 8,000 people moved into work as a result of the introduction of the benefit cap.

Duncan Smith also claimed that many people were applying for the Disability Living Allowance before the new Personal Independence Payment was introduced in order to avoid the new medical test.

The churches write:

All three of these statements have drawn on high quality Government statistical data which has then been misused and misinterpreted. All serve to undermine the credibility of benefit claimants. They were all released at the same time as major changes to the benefit system, which will reduce the level of support many families receive.

It is disturbing that these three instances conform to an apparent pattern of misleading and sometimes wholly inaccurate information from the Government when dealing with the issue of social security; a practice that has added to the misunderstanding and stigma which continues to pollute the debate around poverty in the UK. We are concerned that these inaccuracies paint some of the most vulnerable in our society in an unfavourable light, stigmatising those who need the support of the benefits system. No political or financial imperative can be given to make this acceptable.

The full text of the letter can be read here


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.