From the Revd Paul Nicolson
Sir, - Now is the time for the Churches to prepare for the worst
Christmas the poorest citizens of the UK will have experienced
since before the Beveridge report. Food banks and Crisis at
Christmas will be stretched beyond their capacity to relieve
poverty. After Christmas, the advice sector will not be able to
keep up with demand, as the caps, cuts, and council tax create more
and more unmanageable debt. Isolation, hunger, and cold weather
will take their toll.
Beveridge wrote about social security: it "must be achieved by
co-operation between the State and the individual"; the state would
secure the service and contributions. The state "should not stifle
incentive, opportunity, responsibility; in establishing a national
minimum, it should leave room and encouragement for voluntary
action by each individual to provide more than that minimum for
himself and his family."
Welfare reform is destroying the "national minimum", which had
been reducing in value for decades: £71.70 a week is the single
adult unemployment benefit after rent and council tax, but it is
now expected to pay the rent left unpaid by the capped housing
benefit, and the 8.5 per cent to 30 per cent of the council tax,
depending on the local authority.
Council-tax arrears are enforced by the local authority by
applying to the magistrates for a liability order, adding £50 to
£125 to the arrears; thousands are being issued every week, rising
to over three million a year. Then the bailiffs are sent in, adding
several hundred pounds more. The single adults with too many
bedrooms cannot move, because there are too few single-bedroom
properties, and some of them are housing overcrowded families.
Because the value of the national minimum is now ignored by the
Government, rent and council tax are being paid by the children's
The welfare policies are both immoral, in that they make people
hungry, cold, and homeless, and uneconomic, in that they create
mental and physical illness, and educational under-achievement,
which increases the costs to the NHS, the schools, and the wider
economy. It is a dreadful waste of talent.
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF