THE welfare state no longer pro-vides an adequate safety net for
those on hard times, a new report from Church Action on Poverty
A combination of bad management, inefficiency, and a focus on
cutting the benefits bill has meant that the social-security system
fails to protect people from severe poverty, it says.
Restoring Faith in the Safety Net, which was published
last week, calls on the new Government to ensure that people can
rely on the state to provide the money they are due; and demands
that MPs from the Work and Pensions Select Committee urgently
examine how to fix the "holes in the safety net" that it claims to
In a foreword, the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton,
said: "For far too many people, instead of providing security
against hunger, the 'welfare safety net' is itself a contributory
factor in creating insecurity and destitution."
Bishop Thornton, who co-chaired a parliamentary inquiry into
food poverty last year (
News, 8 December), said that it was unacceptable for the
sixth-wealthiest nation on earth to rely on food handouts from
charities to plug the gaps left by the creaking benefits
Long waits on premium phone lines, queues at Jobcentres,
confusing forms, and contradictory advice make applying for
benefits very difficult, the report says. And even after a
successful application for benefits, it can take up to 16 days
before any money is received.
Of particular concern to Church Action on Poverty was Employment
Support Allowance (ESA), which is designed for people who are
unable to work because of illness or disability. Restoring
Faith quotes statistics that show that in June 2014, almost
300,000 people were waiting for an ESA assessment, 224,600 of whom
had been waiting three months or more.
Benefit sanctions mean that in the 12 months to September 2014,
605,000 people receiving Jobseekers' Allowance had their benefits
temporarily cut or withdrawn as a punishment. But 61 per cent of
those applying to have the sanction reviewed, had it
The report also recommends that the switch to Universal Credit,
which is being phased in gradually, is examined to ensure that no
one can be too sick to claim Jobseekers' Allowance but too well to
In place of language such as "handouts", Christians should see
the welfare system as embodying a vision of a "better world", the
Back to the land
A CHURCH-RUN project in north Durham is helping some of those
who have become homeless because of the "bedroom tax".
The Breathing Space project, at St Michael & All Angels,
Witton Gilbert, involves the church in partnership with Changing
Lives, an organisation that works with homeless people. Through
the collaboration, homeless people have been given the opportunity
to work on the church's nature reserve.
Joe Turner, who is 60, lost his home 18 months ago, when the
housing-benefit changes came in. He now lives in Changing Lives
accommodation. He said: "I could not afford the bedroom tax, so I
ended up losing my home.
"When I became homeless, I could not take in what had happened.
I had worked as a landscape gardener for 25 years, and suddenly
there I was without a home. I went first to the Salvation Army for
help, then to Changing Lives, and started working at the church in
"Being involved in the work has made such a big difference to my
life. It has given me confidence after what happened to me"