Duncan Smith reply to letter on welfare changes ‘misses point’, say authors

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has replied to a group of prominent Catholics who have criticised the UK government’s welfare policies as deeply harmful – but the authors of their Open Letter to Iain Duncan Smith say that he is still missing the point on the harm his policies are causing.

In their detailed reply to Mr Duncan Smith’s defence of his policies, main authors Virginia Moffatt and Bernadette Meaden, from the Christian think-tank Ekklesia, say that the evidence shows how both the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the changes currently being pushed through will “make things worse” for elderly, sick, vulnerable and disabled people in Britain.

The latest letter challenges Mr Duncan Smith in detail on huge reductions in spending, the extent of poverty in the UK, the impact of benefit sanctions on health, failures in exemptions to protect the most vulnerable, reductions in support for the disabled, the negative impact of changes to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), the cut in income for people in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) made in the Summer Budget, the harm caused by the benefit cap, the continuing problem of low income, and the rationale of the reforms as a whole.

A group of leading Catholics published a widely publicised Open Letter to Iain Duncan Smith on 3 July 2015, calling for him to fundamentally alter his approach to welfare reform.

Mr Duncan Smith’s reply last week, together with the group’s response is being jointly published on 10 July by two-think tanks working on these issues, Ekklesia and by the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Virginia Moffatt, chief operating officer of Ekklesia, and one of the signatories, commented: “While we welcome Mr Duncan Smith’s willingness to engage in a proper discussion on this subject, we remain concerned about the damage being caused by the government’s policies on welfare.

“There is a significant body of evidence to demonstrate that welfare reform is impoverishing many families and sick and disabled people. We fear the latest Welfare and Work Bill is only likely to make things worse.”

Ekklesia is an independent, non-denominational think-tank examining beliefs, values and religion in politics and public life.

The Centre for Welfare Reform is a think-tank specialising in projects to develop social innovations, redesign the welfare state and promote social justice.

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NOTES TO EDITORS & JOURNALISTS

1. The reply from Iain Duncan Smith and the further response from Ekklesia and the Centre for Welfare Reform will be published at 10.00 on Friday 24 July 2015 here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/news/features
2. The original 3 July 2015 letter to the Secretary of State and a full list of signatories can be found here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21853
3. ‘Think-tanks publish open letter from prominent Catholics to Secretary of State for Work and Pension’: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/21854
4. Ekklesia and the Centre for Welfare Reform are both committed to developing welfare policies that tangibly improve lives. Ekklesia has recently been granted research funding to develop an alternative to the Work Capability Assessment that will be devised in partnership with sick and disabled people.
5. More about Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/about
6. More about the Centre for Welfare Reform: http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org

Further comment:

* Ekklesia: '+'office@'+'ekklesia.'+'co.'+'uk'+'');
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; Simon barrow, +44 7850 120413
* Centre for Welfare Reform: Dr Simon Duffy, +44 114 251 0228, admin@centreforwelfarereform.org