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Charities criticise welfare cuts

14 December 2012


Vision "emaciated": Sir William Beveridge's 1942 report on social services led to the foundation of the Welfare State 

Vision "emaciated": Sir William Beveridge's 1942 report on social services led to the foundation of the Welfare State 

CHANGES made to the welfare budget by the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been criticised for punishing the poor.

In a letter to The Observer last weekend, 45 charities, church groups, and trade unions said that George Osborne's austerity policies not only hit the most vulnerable hardest, but also threaten the existence of a safety net for the poorest.

The charities, including Oxfam, the Children's Society, and Disability Rights UK, said: "While the Chancellor paints a picture of so-called 'strivers' and 'skivers', our organisations see the reality on the ground: families scraping by in low-paid work, or being bounced from insecure jobs to benefits and back again."

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that Mr Osborne's "populist rhetoric" was not helpful. "Talk like this actually does a great disservice to those trapped in low pay who are going out to work every day to try to provide a better life for their families."

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has promised to "wage war over benefit cuts".

The Archdeacon of Loughborough, the Ven. Paul Hackwood, who chairs the Church Urban Fund, condemned "the emaciation of the vision behind the welfare state". Writing in The Observer last Sunday, he said that the cuts were "clearly aimed at the unemployed, and those in work on low incomes", and that pushing millions outside "the social contract that holds us all together . . . is a dangerous game".

Others who have spoken out include the chief executive of Church Action on Poverty, Niall Cooper, who said: "The Chancellor has decided to shrink the deficit by squeezing the incomes of those who are already struggling."

The Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer, has also criticised the Government's approach. Speaking last Friday, he argued against "this slightly curious mantra, that 'We are all in this together,' and therefore those who are worst off need to suffer as much - or, as it turns out, more - than anybody else."

The Bishop, who speaks for the Church of England on welfare reform in the House of Lords, said: "In the northern cities, like Leeds, actually finding jobs is the difficulty. So to blame people for being out of work does seem to me to be an extraordinary misunderstanding of our society. . .

"My own experience is that when you talk to people about a specific case of welfare need, they are thoroughly supportive. But when you generalise and say: 'Is the welfare budget too high?' people say: 'Yes, it is too high.'"

A new survey suggests that one in six charities believe that cuts and falling donations could force them to close next year. A poll of 252 senior charity staff for the Charities Aid Foundation found that two-fifths of those questioned fear that their organisation could fold.


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