Bishop attacks impact of UK welfare cuts on poorest

By staff writers
23 Dec 2013

The Anglican Bishop of Warrington has said Britain risks "losing the safety net" of the benefit system.

His concerns about the impact of cuts and welfare changes, echoed by churches across the country, come as the impact of piloting the new Universal Credit are piloted in his area and elsewhere this Christmas.

The Rt Rev Richard Blackburn says that the changes, along with serious reductions in public expenditure due to austerity, are hitting the most vulnerable the hardest - contradicting the government's "we're all in this together".

The bishop has circulated his statement to all Church of England clergy in the Diocese of Liverpool, of which he is temporarily in charge while a successor the Rt Rev James Jones is sought.

The government says the new scheme "makes work pay". Critics say that this is disingenuous. Instead of providing well-paid jobs, the UK government's cuts and changes reduces support to people who need it most in order to keep them below a decent pay threshold.

Universal credit one of the government's flagship policies - will merge six working-age benefits into one and make various changes to the way money is paid.

“We daily hear the stories of those forced into desperate choices between food, rent and clothing,” says the Bishop of Warrington in his statement.

"It's clear from conversations with churches in Warrington and Wigan, where universal credit is being piloted, that there are grave concerns as to whether we are losing the safety net that the benefit system should provide."

He said the changes were "long overdue" but there were inevitably "casualties".

Bishop Blackburn said that it was "interesting to see where the casualties fall" as this was a "strong indication of where a government's priorities are".

He added that it was worrying that "governments seem not to care so much" about the fate of the poorest people in society and warned that "those with little or no voice are bearing the brunt".

[Ekk/3]

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