Archbishop fears impact of welfare cuts on families

The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England has warned that vulnerable families may be hit worst by the Government’s welfare cuts.

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, outlined his concerns in a letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, that has been seen by The Times.

According to the newspaper, the Catholic leader spoke of the risk to thousands of poor families, who face being forced out of their homes as a result of cuts being made to housing benefit.

He said that the loss of £93 a week for 50,000 families was a “significant sum for those struggling financially”.

He warned that if media reports of 40,000 families being made homeless were correct “it would surely be a perverse result of policies aimed at reducing dependency of the ‘benefits culture’, since emergency support would immediately need to be put in place”.

The Archbishop voiced concern over the 15 per cent rise in youth homelessness and the prospect of children having to move home and schools because their parents cannot keep up with the cost of housing.

Westminster council estimates it could lose more than 1,500 pupils, or around 260 per school year, as a result of the cuts.

“We fear that the cost of this may be felt most by vulnerable families, whose support networks may rapidly disappear in the process,” the Archbishop said.

The Government is imposing new limits of £400-a-week for a four-bedroom home, £340 for a three-bedroom home, £290 for a two-bedroom home and £250 for a one-bedroom home.

The Archbishop wrote: “I recognise the difficulties which must arise in seeking to promote fairness between those in work and those of working age receiving benefits, but our own agencies working with poor families are increasingly concerned with how the detail of the changes will affect those families.”

His letter follows a similar warning from the Archbishop of Canterbury in an editorial he wrote for New Statesman last month. Dr Rowan Williams accused the Government of pushing through “radical, long-term policies for which no one voted”.