Archbishop William Nolan, the Archbishop of Glasgow, has called for the UK Government to give an assurance that benefits will go up in line with inflation, as he branded the suggestion of a real terms cut ‘immoral’.
It has been suggested that the government’s real terms cut to benefits could push another 450,000 people into poverty across the UK. Low-income households with children, or people with disabilities, would bear the brunt of any move to uprate universal credit and other working-age benefits in line with earnings rather than inflation.
The Archbishop said: “For many decades the UK prided itself on providing a reasonable measure of social security to its citizens who had fallen on rough times – be that through illness, old age, unemployment or poverty.
“Guaranteeing security for the most vulnerable in society is a sign of a civilised country.
“The proposal that the poorest people in our midst – those relying on benefits – may see a real terms cut in their already meagre support seems so immoral.
“It is essential that Government commit to upgrading benefits to at least keep pace with inflation. The poor must not be sacrificed in an attempt to shore up the Government’s credibility with the markets. Making the poor poorer is not an act of fiscal prudence, it is an act of injustice”.
Underpinning the Archbishop’s comments is an important principle of Catholic Social Teaching; that of the preferential option for the poor.
This special form of primacy centres the poor and the marginalised as the focus of particular concern, especially during uncertain and difficult economic times. The responsibility for this concern rests with society as a whole, though government has a special responsibility given its position of influence.
Pope St Gregory the Great said: “When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is ours, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”
The Catholic Parliamentary Office is an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.