06 February 2024, The Tablet

UK Catholics want tackling poverty at heart of Spring budget

UK Catholics want tackling poverty at heart of Spring budget

“The Catholic groups and organisations we represent have a deep concern for the poorest in society.”
© Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

Catholic leaders in Church and society have written to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling him to put tackling poverty at the heart of the next budget, due to take place on 6 March.

Catholic Bishops in England, Wales and Scotland along with Cafod, Csan and the Catholic Union of Great Britain say in a letter, “The Catholic groups and organisations we represent have a deep concern for the poorest in society, both in this country and around the world. This concern is rooted in our faith and the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

They offer policy suggestions such as changes to the UK’s tax and benefit system “to help families keep more of the money they earn and support those most in need”. They also advocate lifting the two-child cap on universal credit and working tax credits.

Arguing that Catholic churches and charities are at the forefront of efforts to support people on the margins of society, seeing “the needs of the communities where we live and serve on a daily basis”, the signatories offer to meet the chancellor ahead of the budget to discuss ways of reducing poverty.

Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, Brian McGee, president of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, said, “When I travel with Sciaf I meet many people who are desperately poor. These are not to be passed over as anonymous and faceless.” James Somerville-Meikle, Catholic Union deputy director, said, “We strongly urge the chancellor to use what may well be the last budget before the next General Election to focus on the common good.”  

A new “act on poverty” course, for use in Lent or later in 2024, has been produced by Christian Aid and other Church Action on Poverty partners, including the Baptist Union, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, Trussell Trust and others to create resources which will help church communities gain a deeper understanding of experiences of poverty and enable action in the run up to the election, with nearly 1,000 churches have signed up already. The partner agencies hosted a webinar on 1 February which introduced the downloadable resources and heard from people who have experienced and who are addressing poverty in the UK and in the global south. One speaker was concerned that “very rich people are abandoning people in poverty”, saying, “It is important to make poverty visible and recognise it is inter-connected globally.”

According to Church Action on Poverty, one in five people in the UK lives in relative poverty and the gap between rich and poor globally continues to widen. Give, act and pray is the thrust of Church Action on Poverty Sunday on 11 Feb. Director Niall Cooper said, “Might this be the year when politicians take seriously the cost of living scandal that has caused millions more people to be pushed into poverty across the UK? More than that, might it be the year when they recapture ambition and make ending UK poverty a real priority?”


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