The Bishop of Colchester has launched a stinging attack against the UK Government’s welfare policies, saying charities have been left “to repair the gaping holes in the fraying safety net of our benefits system”.
The Rt Rev Roger Morris blamed years of Tory cuts and failing welfare reforms for pushing thousands of the poorest people to foodbanks, adding that unless changes are made and benefits increased even more households will be pushed into poverty and destitution.
He made his comments during a speech at Colchester Foodbank’s annual meeting, the Braintree and Witham Times reports, where he also argued that profit-driven private companies are increasingly infringing upon what’s left of the “so-called welfare state”.
“We shouldn’t be here. It is as simple as that”, he said. The foodbank, brilliant though it is, is a sign that, on the whole, we have failed.
“We have failed to care for those most in need. We have failed to protect the most vulnerable in society.
“And our failures, as Government, as society, as a so-called welfare state, are then mopped up by the third sector not-for-profit organisations.
“Volunteers and good old-fashioned charity are used to try to repair the gaping holes in the fraying safety net of our benefits system.”
He called on the Government to make urgent changes to the benefits system, to ensure poorer households are given the financial need need.
“The first thing is not exactly rocket science and it is this – the level of benefits needs to be higher”, he said.
“Secondly, scrap the two-child limit. This invidious policy restricts tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in a family. By 2021, 640,000 families will have been affected.”
He concluded: “Unless changes are made, the foodbank will be needed more and more in the future and not just for those in a crisis, but as an ongoing supplement to the inadequate aid that is offered to those most in need.”
Mr Morris was among profile religious figures who penned an open letter to the Government, calling on ministers to accept responsibility for protecting the poor against the worst of austerity.
The UK’s largest foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, helped to feed more than 1.3 million people between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, including over 484,000 children – a 13% increase on the previous year.
Commenting on those statistics, Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “As a nation we expect no one should be left hungry or destitute – illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job could happen to any of us, and we owe it to each other to make sure sufficient financial support is in place when we need it most.
“It’s hard to break free from hunger if there isn’t enough money coming in to cover the rising cost of absolute essentials like food and housing.
“For too many people staying above water is a daily struggle. It’s completely unacceptable that anyone is forced to turn to a foodbank as a result.”
Commenting on the roll-out of Universal Credit, Emma Revie added: It’s vital we get it right, and ensure levels of payment keep pace with the rising cost of essentials, particularly for groups of people we know are already more likely to need a foodbank – disabled people, people dealing with an illness, families with children and single parents.”