Jonathan Clark, the Bishop of Croydon, today described government policy on benefits as having a “catastrophic” effect on the lives of ordinary people in Croydon.
Bishop Clark has added his voice to those of more than 50 other senior churchmen who this week condemned the welfare reforms of David Cameron’s ConDem government for creating a “national crisis”.
“Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry,” read an open letter published this week and signed by 27 Anglican bishops and 16 clergy from other denominations.
Not since the Church of England’s “Faith in the City” report in the 1980s, which attacked Margaret Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as society” approach to social policy, has the established church involved itself in national politics quite so directly.
Speaking to Inside Croydon, Bishop Clark today joined the call for the Tory-led Government to reverse many of its changes on benefits, which have been driving ever greater numbers of the working poor, and their children, to rely on food banks.
“In Croydon, as in many other places, we are seeing the catastrophic effect that benefit changes are having on ordinary people’s lives,” Bishop Clark said.
“It’s very encouraging to see the generosity and hard work of those who are helping to meet immediate need, especially through the growth of food banks, but we also need to challenge the policies which lead to the need for food banks in the first place,” he said.
Bishop Clark said he had only heard about the letter after its publication, as he had not been approached by the organisers in advance. Nonetheless, “I fully support its message.”
The open letter was published in the Daily Mirror in the same week that the Catholic church’s most senior figure in England, the now Cardinal Vincent Nichols, described the government’s benefit cuts as a “disgrace”.
The letter is part of a campaign from End Hunger Fast, which is calling on all those who do not need to use food banks to take part in a one-day fast, on Friday April 4, to highlight the plight of those who have been forced to use food banks.
The campaign says, “No one should go hungry in Britain. More and more people are just one unexpected bill away from facing bare cupboards. This is a national and moral crisis and government must act to protect the half a million going hungry in Britain.”
The full letter from the bishops said:
Britain is the world’s seventh largest economy and yet people are going hungry.
Half a million people have visited food banks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year .
One in five mothers report regularly skipping meals to better feed their children , and ever more families are just one unexpected bill away from waking up with empty cupboards.
We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must “heat or eat” each winter, harder than those faced by families who’s wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30 per cent in just five years.
Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions.
On March 5 Lent will begin. The Christian tradition has long been at this time to fast, and by doing so draw closer to our neighbour and closer to God.
On March 5 we will begin a time of fasting while half a million regularly go hungry in Britain. We urge those of all faith and none, people of good conscience, to join with us.
There is an acute moral imperative to act. Hundreds of thousands of people are doing so already, as they set up and support food banks across the UK. But this is a national crisis, and one we must rise to.
We call on government to do its part: acting to investigate food markets that are failing, to make sure that work pays, and to ensure that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger.
Coming to Croydon
- Stop the Incinerator fund-raiser, Feb 24
- Fairtrade Film night, Antenna Cafe, Haynes Lane, Feb 27
- Fairtrade event, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 1
- Coulsdon and Purley Debating Society, Mar 3
- Patchwork and quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 3
- Fairtrade stall at Food Market, Haynes Lane, Mar 8
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, Mar 15
- Norwood Society talk, Upper Norwood Library, Mar 20
- South Norwood Lakes Playground group workshop, Mar 25
- Croydon Half-marathon, Mar 30
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 516,649 page views (Jan-Dec 2013)
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