The Church of Scotland is among a group of churches throughout the UK who have criticised David Cameron for an article he wrote this week challenging the Archbishop of Westminster’s views on welfare reform.
Along with the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Methodist Church and United Reformed Church, the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland has responded to claims by the Prime Minister that the number of workless households doubled over the last decade, when Office of National Statistics shows that they increased from 3.7 million in 1997 to 3.9 million in 2010, not 7.4 million as his claim would suggest.
Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, said: “Poverty is a scandal, and it is everybody’s concern. When people misrepresent data or select only favourable statistics to support their argument, this needs to be challenged. Perpetuating myths about poverty damages the fabric of society and does nothing to help those in greatest need.”
Paul Morrison, author of The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty, said: “Mr Cameron repeats tired and discredited numbers which paint an inaccurate picture of ‘welfare dependant’ families spending years on benefits and receiving huge amounts of money.”
The Prime Minister stated that that almost a million and a half people spent the last decade out of work. He did not mention that most of these people were sick or carers. Only 1,000 were unemployed for a decade – the remainder were unable to work due to illness or caring responsibilities. According to the government’s own statistics, more people received bene?ts due to terminal illness and yet survived for a decade, than were unemployed for a decade.
He also spoke of people claiming ‘unlimited amounts of housing benefit’ and yet in 2010 only 0.01% of households received more than £40,000 in housing benefit. In the same year, more than half of housing benefit claims were for less than £4,000.
“Last year half a million people relied on foodbanks, this year we expect that number to be much higher,” Mr Morrison added.
“The key question – why Churches and charities are seeing more people in abject destitution – remains unanswered.
“Mr Cameron says he wants to stick to the facts, and that is the fact he urgently needs to address.”