AS THE Government’s new, lower, benefit cap came in this week, a coalition of Churches warned that it would hit children disproportionately hard.
The new cap, which came into force on Monday, allows families to receive a maximum of only £20,000 in certain benefits per year — or £23,000 if they live in London. Previously, the cap was set at £26,000.
The Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, and the United Reformed Church said the new cap was morally indefensible.
Speaking on behalf of the joint Churches, Paul Morrison said: “It is clear that the benefit cap overwhelmingly targets children: 19 out of every 20 families whose benefits have been capped have children.
“It cannot be morally acceptable to leave children without enough to live on in order to pressurise their parents into work. This is doubly true if those parents have no prospect of moving into work because they are sick, or caring for family members.”
The Children’s Society said that, of the 88,000 households estimated to be affected by the new cap, almost three-quarters (64,000) will be affected for the first time, and will see their benefits cut by an average of £39 per week. The remaining 24,000 households, whose benefits were already reduced by the original cap which was introduced in 2013, will see an average further reduction of £62 per week.
The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Matthew Reed, said: “This is a blunt instrument trying to solve a complex problem. The policy is targeted at workless adults, but the reality is that children are considerably more likely than adults to lose out, and there is nothing fair about trying to balance the books on the backs of poor children.”
The Bishop of Bradford, Dr Toby Howarth, also said that he feared that children would be hurt by the cap. He told his local paper that church groups that stepped in to help those in need were “feeling very stretched”, as they were having to help more and more people who would once have been supported by local authorities.
“We are finding it tough, and we will find it tougher. I think the voice of Bradford and other northern cities needs to be heard, in terms of how these changes are impacting real people and real communities,” he told the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.
Charity offers training in life-skills to debtors HOW to resist children’s “pester power”, cook on a budget, and make a meal from leftovers are some of the skills now being taught to people struggling with debt, by the charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP).
Its new Life Skills course focuses on spending, cooking, budgeting, and relationships. The founder of CAP, John Kirkby, said that, after 20 years of helping people out of debt, they had learned that such skills — some of which were once taught to children in schools — were lacking.
The eight-week course was piloted last year in 36 churches, and the feedback had been overwhelmingly positive, he said.
One couple who attended a course, Simon and Sarah, were struggling to provide for their three children on a low income. Sarah said: “We were constantly worried about money. One of the best sessions with CAP Life Skills was when we were asked to bring in the leftovers from our fridge, and shown how to make a meal out of it. It changed the way we think about money, and we’re nowhere near as stressed now.”
All CAP’s different services are run through churches. There are 576 CAP centres active around the country; 306 of them offer help with debt. Others offer job clubs, and groups to help people break addictions.
The charity celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.