Bishops criticise government for 'failing society's vulnerable'
Two leading religious figures have criticised the government for "failing to protect the most vulnerable in society" and fuelling the growth of foodbanks in the region.
The Rt Rev Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester, said the state was driving its own citizens into poverty and leaving foodbanks to pick up the pieces.
In his address to the AGM of Colchester Foodbank yesterday, the bishop said his hope was that the organisation would cease to exist.
“The food bank, brilliant though it is, is a sign that, on the whole, we have failed,” he said. “We have failed to protect the most vulnerable in society.
“And our failures, as a government, as society, as a so-called welfare state are then mopped up by the third sector not-for-profit organisations.
“Volunteers and good old-fashioned charity are used to try and repair the gaping holes in the fraying safety net of our benefits system.
“And although it is good that we are there to do that, it is ultimately wrong, unjust, inhuman that people should be plunged into such a state of desperation and degradation in the first place.”
The bishop called for the raising of benefits, the two-child policy on tax credit and Universal Credit to be scrapped, Universal Credit to be paid on time, and an end to the harsh treatment of disability claimants and migrants.
The Rt Rev Martin Seeley, Bishop of the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, also criticised the “inhumane” way in which Universal Credit is being applied.
He said: “There are foodbanks across Suffolk serving urban and rural populations and all are seeing substantial increases in demand.
“We have to ask what sort of society we have become that food banks have become essential for many people to feed themselves and their families.
“The ill-judged inhumane way in which the Universal Credit is being applied has resulted in dramatic increases in demand in the three Felixstowe foodbanks where a fourth may have to be set up, and this is replicated across the county.”
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “The reasons why people use food banks are complex, so it’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.
“Since 2010, one million people have been lifted out of absolute poverty and employment is at a record high with over 3.3 million more people in work – equating to an extra 1,000 people employed a day on average, every day.
“Meanwhile we continue to spend £90 billion a year on welfare to support those who need it most.
“The best way to help people improve their lives is through employment, with people on Universal Credit moving into work faster and staying in work longer.”