The United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain are accusing the government of continuing a trend of blaming the poor as new proposals to redefine poverty are announced.
Simon Loveitt, public issues spokesperson for the United Reformed Church said: “Focusing on changing the definition of child poverty will do little to change the daily reality for the growing numbers of UK residents who are being forced to make difficult decisions about buying food for their children or paying their energy bills. The government needs to focus on policies that work, like the living wage, affordable childcare and early education programmes targeted at low-income families that allow children to get the very most out of school.”
“These proposals risk further stigmatising the poor in the eyes of voters and the media,” said Paul Morrison, public issues adviser for the Methodist Church. “It is universally acknowledged that poverty is a relative concept. These proposals seek to undermine the idea that relative poverty matters, by focusing on other issues. At its worst it will seek to measure the ‘faults’ of the poor, further blaming them for poverty.
“We are called to stand alongside the poorest and most vulnerable in society. By focusing on issues like addiction, which only affects a tiny minority of people who are poor, the Government is blaming the poor for poverty and detracting from the real issues. Recession, low pay and decreasing benefits are driving poverty and none of these are the fault of the poor.”
In 2006, Prime Minister David Cameron promised to measure poverty in relative terms, which take account of what people need to live on. But announcements made today signal a definitive shift away from this focus, with plans to measure poverty in terms of drug addiction, homelessness and unemployment, rather than income levels.
“These new measures relate more to the Government’s perception of poor people than to the real scale of poverty,” added Mr Morrison. “Factors like addiction are important, but they are not a measure of poverty.”
The Churches support the Living Wage Campaign, which calls for every worker in the country to be able to earn enough to provide their family with the essentials of life.