Statement by Four Church Leaders on Welfare Reform Bill

03 Nov 2011

Joint Statement on the Welfare Reform Bill by Cardinal Seán Brady, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh, Archbishop Alan Harper, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Right Rev Dr Ivan Patterson, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Rev Ian Henderson, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland

After discussing the implications of the proposed Welfare Reform Bill for Northern Ireland we raised our joint concerns with the Secretary of State.

The stark facts are that almost 110,000 children in Northern Ireland are living in income poverty, twice that of any other region of the UK. We have the highest proportion of working families on Tax Credit. Northern Ireland has some of the highest levels of fuel poverty, rural poverty and historically high levels of health care need in the United Kingdom.

As Church leaders we support initiatives to get people back to work. We believe those who can, should actively seek to work. We also want to see investment that will create jobs. But we are deeply concerned that this Bill will push even more children, families, older people and those with genuine health care needs in Northern Ireland into precarious levels of poverty. The need to challenge the small minority who abuse the welfare system should not be at the expense of the vast majority for whom it is a vital safety net in circumstances over which they have little or no control. We need investment for growth not more people in poverty with even less money to spend.