Faith leaders call for plans to cut Universal Credit to be scrapped

The Moderator of the General Assembly has joined other faith leaders to urge the UK Government to drop controversial plans to cut Universal Credit.

Lord Wallace said cutting payments by £20 a week would be a "devastating blow" to those who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Lord Wallace
Lord Wallace

He described the benefit as a lifeline days after the majority of MSPs at Holyrood backed a Scottish Government motion calling for the reduction, which is due next week, to be reversed.

Faith leaders, who have teamed up with the Trussell Trust, a charity working to end hunger and poverty, have signed an open letter to the UK Government.

The Trussell Trust said 478,000 people in Scotland were claiming Universal Credit as of August this year.

A YouGov survey of claimants, commissioned by the charity, illustrated what people think the impact of a cut will be for them within three months.

17% thought it was very likely that they would need support from a food bank or similar service. This is one in six people and represents nearly 82,000 people.

24% thought it was very likely that they would need to skip meals in order to afford other essential costs. This is one in four people and represents more than 115,000 people.

19% thought it was very likely they wouldn't be able to afford to travel to work or essential appointments. This is one in five people and represents more than 91,000 people.

The open letter reads: "This month, the UK Government plans to cut Universal Credit payments by £20 a week.

"This cut will be a devastating blow for millions of households already struggling to make ends meet.

"Recent research published by the Trussell Trust finds that 1.2 million people (across the UK) fear they will be forced to skip meals and 1.3 million fear they will be unable to heat their homes this winter if this cut goes ahead.

"Earlier this year, the prime minister thanked Church leaders and congregations from all denominations for stepping up and supporting each other and their local communities during the pandemic.

"But the fact is the number of people experiencing destitution has increased by 52% in just two years since 2017 – and these are pre-pandemic figures.

"We are calling on the UK Government to reverse its decision to cut Universal Credit and to ensure we have a social security system that helps people afford the basics in life – like food. We call on them to keep this lifeline."

Signatories

Lord Wallace, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and Bishop of the Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness, The Most Reverend Mark Strange.

The Bishop of Bangor and Senior Bishop in Wales, The Right Reverend Andy John.

The Revd. Sonia Hicks, President, The Methodist Church.

Barbara Easton, Vice-President, The Methodist Church.

The Right Reverend Terrance Drainey, Chair of Trustees of Caritas Social Action Network.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Right Reverend Christopher Chessun.

The Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend David Walker.

The Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend Paul Bayes.

The Bishop of Gloucester and Anglican Bishop for HM Prisons, the Right Reverend Rachel Treweek.

The Bishop of Derby, the Right Reverend Libby Lane.

The Bishop of Llandaff, the Right Reverend June Osborne.

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Right Reverend Cherry Vann.

Revd. Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

Paul Harcourt, National Leader, New Wine England.

Rev Dr Heather Morris, General Secretary and Secretary of Conference, The Methodist Church in Ireland.

Rev Dr Sahr Yambasu, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland.

Revd John Bradbury, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church.

The Reverend Gavin Calver, CEO Evangelical Alliance.

Natalie Williams, Chief Executive at Jubilee+.