Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, has said that recent changes in the U.K.’s Welfare system has left many people in hunger and destitution. His comments have been widely publicised but the Prime Minister in a letter to the Daily Telegraph today refutes them . David Cameron says he is giving unemployed Britons new hope and responsibility by cutting their benefit payments and claims the government’s welfare cuts are part of a’ moral mission’. But today in a letter to the Daily Mirror, twenty seven Anglican bishops and Methodist, Quaker and United Reform church leaders support the Catholic Archbishop. They say:
“ Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry. Half a million people have visited foodbanks* in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year. One in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children, and even more families are just one unexpected bill away from waking up with empty cupboards.
We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must “heat or eat” each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using foodbanks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions’.”
Cameron doesn’t just criticise the Archbishop, he says his comments are simply not true, and the government is doing ‘what is right’. So what is right and what is true? Surely it is true that there are vulnerable people in our society that are not being cared for and are being scapegoated.
‘Welfare’ should be a good word and the mark of a just society. And ‘doing right’ is honouring everyone as valuable members of society.
*Foodbanks are supplies of basic food given by volunteers for people whose need has been authenticated by doctors or socials workers and organised by the Trussell Trust, a charity whose vision is to build communities where people of all backgrounds are included.