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
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
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.