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Prepare for a very tough winter for the poor under this Government

by
11 October 2013

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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 benefits.

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.

PAUL NICOLSON
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF

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