Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), the social action arm of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has accused the UK Chancellor of “failing the poorest” in his Budget statement.
The respected charity says that the Government not addresses poverty adequately in a Budget that George Osborne says was for “makers, doers and savers”.
The NGO points out that people in work, making and doing, are suffering, and that many simply cannot afford to save or are having vital support axed if they do.
The Chancellor announced that welfare spending will be capped at £119 billion in 2015-16, excluding state pensions and Job Seekers Allowance, and after that will rise in line with inflation -- though not necessarily with wages and costs if, as the government claims, the economy will eventually grow.
CSAN Chief Executive, Helen O’Brien, commented: “Once again we’ve heard promises to help struggling families through tax and childcare measures, whilst at the same time the significant reduction in support for the poorest people continues.
"For another year the value of Working Tax Credits, Child Benefit and many disability allowances will decline in real terms. People are already experiencing hardship as a result of this policy and there is a very real danger that it will be compounded by the planned cap on welfare spending.
"Recent proposals to slash a further £12 billion from the welfare budget, lower the household benefit cap and remove support from young adults are also likely to undermine any positive steps to help people in difficulty."
She added: “The only consistency we’re seeing is a worryingly inconsistent approach to tackling poverty.”
Last month CSAN’s Patron Cardinal Vincent Nichols expressed his anxiety about the extent of benefit cuts, warning that:
“the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution has actually been torn apart.”
CSAN member charities working to support people in poverty have experienced a significant increase in demand for their services since changes to the benefits system began.
A large majority have also reported increases in the number of service-users facing housing insecurity, family breakdown and difficulties affording food.
* Caritas Social Action Network: http://www.csan.org.uk
* Ekklesia's 2014 Budget coverage: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/budget2014
* On Twitter, follow the hashtag: #Budget2014