Faith leaders call for changes to welfare to stop more people falling into poverty

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Faith leaders in Scotland have made a joint call to the UK and Scottish Governments urging changes to welfare to stem the rising tide of poverty. 

They say Westminster and Holyrood should implement measures that reflect the values of "care and compassion", and which would "make a real difference to families and individuals living in the grip of poverty". 

The open letter has been published at a time of growing concern about the impact of Covid-19 on millions of people but especially the least well off.

It has been signed by representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Buddhist traditions, and calls for an end to the Benefit Cap and the two-child limit.

The faith leaders also ask that government leaders retain the temporary increase in the Universal Credit basic allowance in order to "boost the incomes of families most in need".

The call follows recent modelling by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which found that scrapping the temporary increase would push another 700,000 people in the UK into poverty. 

The letter goes on to warn that carers risk being "locked" into poverty unless the Carers Allowance Supplement is increased. 

One of the signatories, Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, said Christians had a duty to challenge poverty. 

"The opposite of challenging something is just accepting it - and when it comes to poverty Christians don't have the 'just accepting' option available to them," he said. 

"We're called to examine our own choices and lifestyles and to call on governments to put tackling poverty at the top of their list of priorities.

"That was always the case but becomes even more important in times like these, given that the evidence suggests that the poor and most vulnerable suffer most."

Responding to the statement, Peter Kelly, Director of Poverty Alliance said: "The pandemic has shown us how much we want to look after each other. But it's also highlighted the gaps in our system of social protection.

"This intervention from Scotland's faith leaders is a welcome contribution to the mounting calls on both the UK and Scottish Governments to fix our social security system so it acts as a lifeline to help people stay afloat.

"Even before the Covid-19 crisis, one in five people in Scotland were living in poverty. Without urgent action, this can only be expected to get worse."

In addition to Dr Fair, the letter has been signed by Imam Razawi, Chief Imam and Director General of the Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society, the Rt Rev William Nolan, Bishop of Galloway, Sensei Karl Kaliski, of the Cloud Water Zen Centre, the Most Rev Mark Strange, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and Ravinder Kaur Nijjar, representative of Sikhs in Scotland.