From the Revd Paul Nicolson
Sir, — The Church Urban Fund (News, 25 May) is right to draw attention to the increasing number of people living in deprivation in northern parishes, more than in southern parishes. Comparing the numbers in deprivation in parishes tends, however, to leave out the degree of poverty, which is equally devastating in north and south; there is evidence to suggest that it is worse still in the areas where rents are highest, as in London and the south-east.
Adult unemployment benefit throughout the UK is £71 a week, with £56.25 for the under-25-year-olds, after rent and council tax. It is half the Government’s poverty threshold, and 42 per cent of the Joseph Rowntree minimum income standard. Where rents exceed the housing-benefit caps, the consequent arrears, with any existing debts, have to be paid out of that £71 a week, or hit the already inadequate benefits of the children or the disabled, which are being cut; hence the growing number of food banks and forced migration out of high-rent properties into parishes with existing deprivation.
Where rents do not exceed the caps, the unemployed tenants with no other source of income are still very short of money to buy the minimum quantities of necessities.
The Universal Credit cap limiting the total amount of benefit any family can receive will add even more to the misery of large families in high-rent properties when it is introduced in 2013.
The same circumstances apply to the national minimum wage, which was never intended to relieve poverty. Statutory minimum incomes in employment and unemployment are now totally disconnected from the size of families, rents, or the minimum quantities and prices of other necessities for healthy living throughout the UK.
Zacchaeus 2000 Trust
34 Grosvenor Gardens
London SW1W 0DH