BISHOPS and other prominent Christian figures have called on the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb, to reverse cuts to welfare for the disabled.
Mr Crabb, a former Welsh Secretary, and a Christian, was promoted to the post after the departure of Iain Duncan Smith, who resigned saying that further planned cuts to disability benefit were a step too far. Mr Crabb reversed those cuts, which had been announced in the Budget by the Chancellor, George Osborne (News, 18 March; Comment, 24 March).
An open letter, signed by four bishops — including the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan; and the leader of the Iona Community, the Revd Peter MacDonald; and the directors of the think tank Ekklesia and the Centre for Welfare Reform — welcomes the reversal of cuts to Personal Independence Payments. Mr Crabb is urged, however, to go “even further”, and to reverse earlier changes to the payments, which are said to have left thousands of people housebound.
The letter also calls on the Government to reverse a cut of £30 a week in the Employment and Support Allowance; to review the impact of benefit sanctions on the health of sick and disabled people; and to abolish the spare room subsidy (the “bedroom tax”).
It asks Mr Crabb to imagine that he, or a member of his family, was claiming disability benefit, and to afford claimants “the respect and compassion you would wish for yourself or a loved one”.
“When Mr Duncan Smith resigned, he suggested that welfare reform and cuts to benefits for working age people had gone too far. We agree, and believe that now is the time to take stock and begin to adopt a different approach.
“As Christians, we are inspired by the words of James (2.15-16): ‘If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?’
“We continue to believe that a supportive welfare state is an expression of Christian justice and compassion and that a nation should be judged on how well it treats those who require extra support. We also believe that as a wealthy country, we can afford the support necessary for everyone to live a dignified life. At the moment, we believe the social security system is failing to provide such support to some of the people who most need it.”
Other prominent signatories include the Roman Catholic authors Frank Cottrell Boyce and David Lodge; the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent; the Bishop of Ludlow, the Rt Revd Alistair Magowan; the Area Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson; and the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson.