BY Daniel Harkins | July 10 2015 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Sir Tom Devine leads Catholic charge against welfare reform

Scottish Catholic academic joins the Union of Catholic Mothers in backing think tank Ekklesia’s letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith calling for changes to government benefit cuts ahead of budget

PROFESSOR Sir Tom Devine has joined fellow Catholics in calling for change in the UK Government’s welfare reforms in a letter published by a Christian think tank. Ekklesia, a non-profit organisation, and the Centre for Welfare Reform, have published the letter that has been sent to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, a Catholic.

The letter criticises the government’s introduction of benefits sanctions and cuts to financial help for those with disabilities, including children. The letter is signed by a number of prominent Catholics including the Scottish historian Professor Devine the Union of Catholic Mothers, priests, laypeople, academics, journalists and a number of Justice and Peace organisations.

It has been published ahead of Wednesday’s emergency budget that is expected to include a further £12 billion of welfare cuts.

“We are writing to express our concern at the impact on our communities of your welfare reform policies,” the letter says. “We understand that your Catholic Faith is important to you, and your approach is driven by a desire to improve the quality of individual lives. However, we believe that they are in fact doing the reverse. We would urge you to rethink and to abandon further cuts, which are likely to cause more damage.”

The letter also notes the department’s admission that sanctions can lead to ‘a deterioration in the health of a claimant’ and asks if it is appropriate to punish people who are unemployed, sick, or disabled in a way we ‘would not expect prisoners in our jails to be punished.’

The writers quote the 1931 depression-era Papal encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, and say they believe that ‘a supportive welfare state is an expression of Christian justice and compassion.’

“When this support is removed, we may think we are saving money, but the consequential problems, like poorer mental and physical health, and educational underachievement, all bear a human and financial cost, and will have to be paid for in some way,” it says.

The letter concludes by quoting St Augustine: “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”

On signing the letter, the Union of Catholic Mothers said: “We are happy to add our voice to this expression of concern especially as it could affect so many families, the poor and vulnerable people.”




—This story ran in full in the July 10 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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