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Saturday, February 25, 2017
Catholic agency disappointed at Budget
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¬† Caritas - social action, the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales recently-formed agency dealing with social concerns, has issued a statement expressing disappointment with the Chancellor's Budget. It said: There are glimmers of hope for pensioners, and those actively seeking work. But this Budget fails to go far enough, its nearly good news, but there's not enough social justice. The Director of Caritas - social action, Sarah Lindsell said: "Last year the Chancellor delivered for those in work and those with families. This year he is turning his attention to those without jobs. Determined to achieve full employment the Chancellor is intensifying his push towards work. The measures announced yesterday effectively mean that after 13 weeks of unemployment those still without work will be penalised. Those seeking work are required to travel further to find it because it will take time for the 2000 enterprise areas to deliver local jobs". The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, announced yesterday the introduction of job grants and increased housing benefit support for those in work. These measures are welcome for giving the benefits system more flexibility to accommodate the increasingly flexible labour market. But those seeking work should not be pushed into work that isn't decent. Since the publication of the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum in 1891 the Catholic Church has consistently affirmed the dignity of labour and the right of the employee to earn a just wage. Unfortunately the Government are unable to tell us if the minimum wage, or even minimum income guarantee provide enough to live a decent 'life in all its fullness' (Jn.10.10). Recent developments to allow flexible working arrangements for parents, assistance with childcare costs and minor increases in the minimum wage all help create decency and dignity in the work place. However the complexity and inflexibility of the benefits system and the perpetuation of indebtedness remain significant barriers to decent work. There is a glimmer of hope for some of the most deprived neighbourhoods. The Chancellor announced incentives for small business creation in the 2000 places in the UK with the most deprivation that have been designated 'Enterprise Areas'. There was also a new proposal to share tax receipts that result from new business creation between central government and local authorities for the benefit of local people. Work for those with children will be more attractive due to increased childcare provision initially announced in the Spending Review 2000. The Chancellor mentioned again the Government's family friendly policies giving parents flexibility to balance their family commitments with work. Also announced in last years Budget, were the new tax credits, both of which were introduced last week. Sarah Lindsell said: "Very little of what the Chancellor announced for children and families is new. They have raised Child Benefit in line with inflation, and have missed the opportunity to raise the basic Child Tax Credit by £3 and accelerate their momentum towards eradicating child poverty. Even the introduction of the Child Trust Fund, whilst welcome, has been trailed for the past couple of years. We welcome such examples of progressive universalism but are disappointed that children won't benefit until they are 18 years. We are concerned that saving is a luxury for those who are struggling to get by today". 5 million people stand to benefit from the Pensioner Credit with an average additional weekly payment of £7 for single pensioners and £9 for couples. However the Government's target that 75% of pensioners take up the credit by 2006 is far too low. The evidence from the minimum income guarantee shows that a third of those entitled to claim it, don't. Those aged 80 and over will get an additional £100 added to the Winter Fuel Allowance of £200. This is good news, but why all pensioners don't need this increase wasn't explained. Does heating your home take less money if you are 75? Finally the scandalous practice of taking deductions from the state pension of older people who stay in hospital for longer than six weeks is to end. So 26,000 pensioners who each year effectively had to pay for being ill are to be released from this 'privilege'. Sarah Lindsell, Director of Caritas social action said: "This subdued Budget proves really what we have always known. That we pay less tax than most other countries and we get what we pay for!
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