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Bishop of Southwark criticises Government’s welfare reform

The Bishop of Southwark used his Easter Sunday morning sermon at Southwark Cathedral to warn about the consequences of the Government's changes to the benefits system.

Christopher Chessun

"Tomorrow the long-vaunted benefit cuts begin to take effect," said Rt Revd Christopher Chessun.

"Those who are genuinely in need – those who need the support of society – will find that support reduced.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that many will struggle to live.

"The 'bedroom tax' which fails to take account of the reality of our housing situation – and crisis – will financially cripple many people already in significant need.

"Politicians with significant expertise in this area speak with increasing concern and alarm.

"And yet – as concern grows – the rhetoric increases, shamefully classing all who rely on benefits as 'scroungers' and 'idle'. Which is simply not true.

"Undoubtedly the system is far from perfect and needs proper reform. But it is questionable that these steps will lead to a reform that will continue to help support and provide a proper safety net for those in real need.

"Already the effects of these vast cuts can be seen. More children are being plunged into poverty. More families are at risk of being made homeless.

"And more parents are forced to turn to charity to survive. It is shameful that in our society the biggest development in social care this year has been the increasing network of foodbanks, though a remarkable testament to the networks of local churches which have risen to the challenge."

The Bishop continued: "Against this we see tax cuts for the richest. We have system of corporation tax which enables huge companies to avoid paying anything; and when they do – astonishingly – gives them the ability to negotiate what they pay.

"Where is our sense of priorities? Where is justice in this? But more importantly, where is mercy?"

He added: "It is time to challenge the ruthless individualism of the age in which we live, and seek to understand again and afresh the common good."

Hear the Bishop's sermon in full

Map: how welfare reform will affect SE1 households

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