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02 April 2013

Church groups challenge ‘lies’ about UK poverty

Church groups challenge ‘lies’ about UK poverty

Churches, charities and campaign groups have labelled benefit changes "unjust" and claim the cuts will hit the poor and vulnerable hardest.

Yesterday, the government began implementing its latest austerity measures – significant changes in public services and a reform of the benefits system.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Church of Scotland claim that politicians and the media have misrepresented those who receive benefits as well as people experiencing poverty, in order to justify the spending cuts.

A report, The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty, has been sent to every UK MP and Member of the Scottish Parliament in Britain

“These cuts make April fools of us all,” said Paul Morrison, public issues policy adviser for the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Joint Public Issues team. “We are witnessing what happens when we create a culture that blames poor people for their poverty. It is a lie to say that most people on benefits are lazy, that they have an easy life or that they are responsible for the nation’s financial deficit. When people are willing to believe those lies, poor families pay the highest price.”

Key changes to the benefits system include: Disability Living Allowance becoming Personal Independence Payment, involving a planned reduction of support to this group by 20 per cent. A total benefit cap will be implemented, which will be rolled out in four London local authorities, before being imposed on the rest of the country. A ‘Bedroom Tax’ will mean cuts to housing benefit for working-age social housing tenants whose property is considered to be larger than they need. Working-age benefits and tax credits will be uprated by one per cent - a below-inflation cap.

The report claims that a quarter of a million people are living in families that will be impacted and that children are nine times more likely than adults to be affected by the changes. It maintains that the poorest in society - those who are on the very edge - will find life that little bit harder year-on-year because of these measures.

“Some families will experience the effects of more than one of these measures,” added Mr Morrison. “It is worrying that there are no government estimates for the number of people who may be affected by two or three of these cuts at once.”

Chancellor George Osborne defended the plans, saying “this month we will make work pay” and insists that they have public support. He believes nine out of 10 working households will be better off and that the benefits and tax changes will help the country live within its means.

When asked if he could live on £53 a week, in response to a question posed by a working benefits claimant, Mr Iain Duncan Smith said: "If I had to I would."

Mr Morrison also challenges the wider public: “When ordinary people allow myths about poverty to go unchallenged, whether it’s in the pub or the newspapers, we all become complicit in a great injustice.”

Follow the conversation on twitter: #liesaboutpoverty