Christian group hits out at minister's 'callous' suggestion to find 'better-paid job'

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It is fairer taxes, not better jobs that will help vulnerable people weather the UK's cost of living crisis, Christian group CARE has said.

It has hit out at suggestions by government minister Rachel Maclean that people should work more hours or find "a better-paid job" to protect themselves against inflation and the impact of soaring food and energy costs.

CARE called the comments "callous" and said that the government should instead be making changes to the "unfair" tax system to bring relief to the hard hit.

It is calling for reforms of both income tax and national insurance to relieve some of the burden on vulnerable households.

CARE spokesman Tim Cairns said: "The out-of-touch comments by Ms Maclean point to a concerning lack of understanding of both the level of hardship people are facing, and the factors behind poverty.

"The government needs to consider a suite of measures to help Brits in the challenging fiscal environment we now inhabit. Measures that are built on fairness and compassion towards citizens, not callous to their circumstances.

"We have been calling for reform of the tax system to help families, who will be hardest hit. We again urge the government to do so. Alongside other measures, a fairer tax system can help the vulnerable weather the storm."

A joint study by CARE and fiscal policy experts, Tax and the Family, is calling for an overhaul of the income tax system to make it fairer on families and lower income households.

"The UK tax system does not treat families fairly," the report said.

"The amount of tax that they pay bears little relationship to how well off they are.

"Many families in poverty pay income tax. Some in the bottom half of the income distribution even pay higher rate tax and are liable for the HICBC (High Income Child Benefit Charge).

"This problem, which has been ignored by successive Chancellors, is a serious one, and needs to be tackled."

The study calls for structural reform of the income tax system.

"What is needed is a culture change so that the household is recognised as the basic unit of taxation, just as it is for other purposes," it said.

"This will enable the unfairness and disadvantages for families with children considered earlier in this report to be tackled and the UK system brought more closely into line with those in most other developed countries."

Commenting on the report, CARE CEO Ross Hendry said it was "deeply concerning" that families in poverty are paying income tax, and that families in the bottom half of income distribution are paying tax at the higher rate.

"Our country is in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis. Across the UK, bills are rising. Many families are facing the heart-breaking dilemma of choosing between eating or heating," he said.

"We must consider a range of legislative options to give UK citizens, and particularly the most vulnerable families, real help in the years ahead."

He added, "We recognise that the culture change called for will be a big undertaking but as a society, we should always strive for what is fair and compassionate, even if it's difficult to achieve."