Catholic organisations have joined the widespread criticism of the fiscal plans outlined in the government’s autumn statement on 17 November.
The Catholic Union said it was “far from clear that the government grasps the scale of the challenge facing people”, and called “the complete lack of reference to the homeless or refugees” in the chancellor’s statement “deeply disturbing”.
Warning of “real challenges for families up and down the country” and “difficult times”, the chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a number of revenue-raising measures in the House of Commons last Thursday.
Raymond Friel, the chief executive of the Caritas Social Action Network, said that the statement “raises profound questions about the quality of life in the UK and the state of our public services for years to come”.
Although the chancellor’s proposals were “more responsible and measured” than Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget in September, Mr Friel said that serious concerns remained about delays to the uprating of benefits, the maintenance of the two-child cap on universal credit, and further delay to social care reforms.
“The extent of poverty in our country remains a scandal,” he said.
A group of 12 Vincentian charities, including the Society of St Vincent de Paul, called on the chancellor “to provide an adequate social security system, one that reflects the true cost of living” and “a clear vision to improve the adequacy of social security to support people both in and out of work”.
Their statement continued: “The cost-of-living crisis continues to intensify, and with inflation set to remain high for the foreseeable future, it is the government’s moral responsibility to ensure there is targeted financial support and a strong safety net in place for vulnerable people this winter and beyond in order to ensure they do not bear the brunt of the financial crisis.”
The Catholic Union’s director, Nigel Parker, said: “At a time when so many families are struggling, it is disappointing that yet another chancellor has missed the opportunity to make the tax system fairer for families.”
He added: “While times are tough at home, we know they are even tougher for many people abroad. Sadly [this] statement makes restoring the international development budget to 0.7 per cent of GDP seem like a distant prospect.”
CAFOD was also sharply critical of the failure to increase the overseas aid budget.
“These are difficult times for everyone which means difficult decisions must be made,” said the charity’s chief executive Christine Allen. “But the answer cannot be to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable.
“The UK government is spending just half on aid overseas compared to their previous promises, yet the number of global crises continues to increase.”
Alistair Dutton, the chief executive of SCIAF, said he was “very concerned about the devastating consequences this will have for the world's poorest people”.