15 December 2014, The Tablet

Duncan Smith defends benefit cuts criticised by Cardinal Nichols

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has defended cuts to welfare payments following criticism of them by senior Catholic Church leaders.

Last week Mr Duncan Smith, a Catholic himself, explained that Cardinal Vincent Nichols had been “factually wrong” earlier this year to say that the benefits system was becoming “punitive” and leaving people without money. He told The Tablet that there was a reserve fund of money to help those people who had not received their payments.

And responding to another church leader, the Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia, who said the British welfare system was “unfit for purpose” and was driving people into poverty, Mr Duncan Smith insisted his reforms were fair, saying: “It can never be right that people can earn more on benefits than if they are working.”

In February, days before he received the red hat in Rome, Cardinal Nichols said the Coalition Government’s reforms of welfare had removed the safety net from people, and that it was a “disgrace” that some in Britain had been left with nothing to live on.

Three weeks before the cardinal made his remarks, a House of Commons Select Committee on Work and Pensions reported that many benefit claimants had been “sanctioned inappropriately” and left facing hardship that appeared to vindicate the cardinal’s criticisms.

Following the cardinal’s remarks, Mr Duncan Smith, who has overseen major reform of the welfare system including the introduction of cap in benefit payments, met him to discuss the cuts.

Above: Iain Duncan Smith. Photo: Crown copyright

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