With the UK Government’s Autumn Statement imminent, the Bishops’ Conference’s Department for Social Justice has released a statement on the cost-of-living crisis, calling on the government to make sure that the preferential option for the poor is prioritised. Bishop Richard Moth, Chair of the department, said:
“We understand the complex challenges facing Government as a result of war, an ageing population and the fracturing of families. However, the ‘preferential option for the poor’ must be at the forefront of the government’s priorities. This principle requires that social and economic policies are scrutinised for their impact on the poor”.
The statement highlights the fact that too many people live in a position where they lack financial security and risk falling into poverty and debt, and asks the government to address these problems without neglecting obligations to aid poorer countries or to reduce carbon emissions. Addressing those working in public life, the statement says:
“It is essential that political parties, and all in public life, place the common good over party interest… This means that the focus of political action and public life must be the creation of those relationships and conditions that are necessary for all to flourish and reach perfection. True flourishing goes beyond the satisfaction of material need and requires strong families, local communities and voluntary associations which, in turn, make their contribution to human flourishing and the building of the common good.”
The statement acknowledges that the cost-of-living crisis is multi-faceted and requires actions at a range of levels – including Government, civil society and the Church. Six specific requests are made of the Government:
- The taxation system should treat justly those with family, child-rearing and other caring responsibilities.
- The Government should examine with urgency and seriousness how policies relating to the provision of housing can reduce costs for families and ensure that families can have a stable and decent home. Housing costs today are at their highest levels relative to incomes since the 1870s.
- The Government should not neglect the need for a just transition to greener energy but should also consider carefully how different sections of society bear the costs.
- The world’s poorest people should not be further victims of the cost-of-living crisis in our own country. The Government should return to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid.
- Welfare benefits should be fully uprated to reflect increases in the cost of living, with priority being given to families with children.
- The two-child cap on universal credit payments should be removed or, at the very least, suspended pending a review of its impact.
Download: The full statement can be downloaded from the Bishops’ Conference website.
Listen: You can listen to a podcast in which Philip Booth, Director of Policy and Research, discusses the statement and the cost-of-living crisis.