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Benefits freeze plans are a 'brutal blow', say Christian charities

03 October 2014


Cutting proposals: George Osborne addresses the Conservative Party conference, in Birmingham, on Monday

Cutting proposals: George Osborne addresses the Conservative Party conference, in Birmingham, on Monday

CHARITIES condemned benefits cuts proposed by the Chancellor, George Osborne, at the Conservative Party Conference this week.

Mr Osborne (below) said on Monday that if the Conservatives won the next General Election, they would freeze for two years all benefits apart from pensions, disability benefits, and maternity pay. Because of inflation, this would amount to a cut in real terms of about £3 billion a year. The Treasury said that about ten million households would be affected, of which half were in work.

The Children's Society, however, described the plans as a "brutal blow to millions of families already hit hard by repeated cuts to critical support". In a statement on Monday, the chief executive, Matthew Reed, said: "Far too many families in this country are already struggling to provide a basic standard of living for their children because of the three-year one per cent annual cap in benefit rises put in place at the start of last year.

"These further cuts will make it harder for families to put food on the table and pay the rent to keep a roof over their head."

Mr Osborne said that a future Conservative government would also restrict the amount of housing benefit or jobseeker's allowance that 18-to-21-year-olds had access to, and cut the cap on the total amount of benefits a household could claim from £26,000 to £23,000.

CSAN, the social-action arm of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, gave warning that reducing the benefits cap could drive more families into poverty. The chief executive, Helen O'Brien, said in a statement on Monday that RC charities had seen a rise in the need for emergency food parcels in the past year.

"Reducing the benefit cap to £23,000 is going to cause further financial hardship for many families, including and in particular, larger families," she said. "There is a real risk that lowering the cap is going to drive even more children into poverty, especially in areas, such as London, where the cost of housing is cripplingly high. Although we understand the need to reduce government expenditure, we call for this to be achieved without the likelihood of pushing more families into poverty."

Endorsing the Chancellor's proposed cuts at the conference on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that the Conservatives were the "real party of compassion and social justice". He also announced tax cuts for both middle earners and the poor. People who were working on the minimum wage for 30 hours a week would pay no income tax at all.

Labour's Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, said that the Conservatives had chosen to give the "richest one per cent a £3-billion-a-year tax-cut" while cutting benefits that helped working families.

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