In the week that the Household Benefit Cap rolls out across Britain, CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network), the social action arm of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has warned that the changes risk leaving “vulnerable families unable to meet the very basic costs of living and increase child poverty”.
The Household Benefit Cap has already been implemented in the London Boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey but yesterday (15 July 2013) the Government began the first phase of its nationwide roll- out. Under the changes, benefits for couples or lone parent households will be capped at £500 per week and benefits for single person households will be capped at £350 per week.
CSAN has consistently voiced its concerns about the introduction of the household benefit cap in its current form. CSAN previously called for Child Benefit to be excluded and for regional variation in the cap, claiming that this would have helped to protect some of the most vulnerable families.
Commenting on the roll-out of the household benefit cap, CSAN’s Chief Executive, Helen O’Brien said:
“As the first phase in the roll out of the Household Benefit Cap begins, Catholic Charities are bracing themselves for rising demand for their services.
“The household benefit cap has been set at an arbitrary level taking no account of family size or geographical variations in living costs. We are extremely concerned about the disproportionate impact the cap is likely to have on larger households and those living in London. We fear that the cap may leave vulnerable families unable to meet the very basic costs of living and increase child poverty”
“Already Catholic Charities are reporting more families struggling to pay their rent, foregoing meals and essential utilities. Many dioceses and Catholic Charities are expanding foodbank and nightstop services and are proactively exploring ways they can reach out to those affected.”
“Recent suggestions that the household benefit cap could be lowered still further are especially worrying. Whilst we recognise the need to reduce government expenditure in the current economic climate, it is vital that a viable safety net is maintained.”
In a recent address to CSAN’s conference on poverty, Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster said that Catholics “must not shy from adding our voice to public debate. Catholic Social Teaching does not offer a ‘magic wand’ to solve the dilemma facing many governments today struggling to contain welfare budgets in difficult times. There is an unavoidable trade-off between various policy objectives, each of which is always in tension with the others: alleviating poverty, removing disincentives to work, containing public expenditure and stimulating the economy. The moral insistence is to attend first to those who are most vulnerable, and at present that includes rising numbers of children.”
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