WESTMINSTER GOVERNMENT NO LONGER CAPABLE OF DELIVERING SOCIALLY JUST EQUITABLE SOCIETY, CHURCH OF SCOTLAND LEADERS.
WESTMINSTER GOVERNMENT IS NO LONGER CAPABLE OF DELIVERING A SOCIALLY JUST AND EQUITABLE SOCIETY – CHURCH OF SCOTLAND LEADERS.
If the people of Scotland vote ”yes” then the coalition will have done much to encourage that result. The unequal imposition of austerity since 2010 has been noticed by voters north of the border.The Church of Scotland has decided to remain neutral, but influential members of the Kirk deeply committed to social justice, including the leader of the Iona Community Peter MacDonald, are expressing the concerns of many of us who work with and for the poorest citizens of England, and voting yes.
He said “I no longer believe the Westminster Government is capable of delivering the socially just and equitable society in which I want to live. The British state no longer serves the needs of all its people. Economic policies have favoured the wealthy who have grown richer, and stigmatised the poor and vulnerable who are paying for the failures of the private financial sector.”
If Scotland votes “no” these failings of the Westminster Government will still exist.
Rev Paul Nicolson
TO WHAT EXTENT ARE THE CHURCHES COMPLICIT IN THE POOR BECOMING MUCH POORER IN THE UK?
Letter in The Tablet – 30th August 2014
28 August 2014
Your leader (23 August) states that “Promises don’t put food on the table.” The uncomfortable question is: to what extent are the Churches complicit in the poor becoming much poorer? The demand for food banks and credit unions can only increase until the Churches apply the preferential option for the poor, understand their circumstances and tackle the cumulative impact of decades of structural injustice.
Perhaps our ineffectiveness is because so many members of Christian congregations do not understand the impact of being made homeless by a local authority, moved into private rented accommodation and being obliged to move eight times since 2002. That happened to a single mother with three young children I have met. Or the impact of having their benefit income capped at £500 a week, which caps housing benefit at 50p and forces them to pay £282 a week of that £500 in rent, like a single mother with seven young children I have also met.
Christianity needs bishops who speak up for the poor and against oppression in the UK
Liberation theology cannot be picked up from South America and planted in the UK. But its method of doing theology – from the perspective of the poor, studying the facts and being shocked by their circumstances – can be. Leonardo Boff, silenced by the Vatican in 1992, wrote: “The central question is how to exercise faith in the midst of social oppression. How should the ecclesiastical community interact with the political community?”
The short answer to Boff’s question (posed in an essay, The Originality of Liberation Theology, in The Future Of Liberation Theology: Essays In Honour of Gustavo Gutiérrez, published in 1989) is with and for poor people who suffer innocently. That is done out of the love inspired by the innocent suffering of our founder, who joined them on a cross.
Our first-world churches are complicit with extreme free-market politics and do not reflect, in the light of our faith, on the oppression done in the name of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Our ineffectiveness can be measured by the increasing oppression of the poorest citizens in the UK.
We desperately need bishops and archbishops who will interact with the political community and the public in the manner of Oscar Romero. He famously said: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist. When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises.” Romero was assassinated on 24 March 1980, the eve of the enthronement of Robert Runcie as archbishop of Canterbury.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
PS The famous statement “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist” is also attributed to Helda Camara another bishop fighting oppression. The WWW has both him and Oscar Romero saying it. The one I picked was on Cafod’s websitehttp://www.cafod.org.uk/News/UK-News/Volunteer-Week-thank-you, “My Favorite quote is by the late Archbishop Oscar Romero, who said: “When I give food to the poor they call me a Saint, when I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist” but that is probably wrong!!.
Letter in The Guardian 20th August 2014
FAMILIES AT THE FRONT OF THE PM’s MIND
The dreaded Tina – “there is no alternative” – has spooked ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions into the mantra that the bedroom tax is absolutely necessary to get the housing benefit under control (Woman killed herself after worries about bedroom tax, 13 August). No matter that they were warned that the stress of demanding both bedroom tax rent up to £24 a week and council tax up to £8 a week from single adults receiving £72.40 jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), employment and support allowance (ESA) or income support from April 2013 would lead to suicide.
During the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 they were sent a case reported by the local government ombudsman in 2001 of a single, semi-literate adult living alone in Southwark (and 30 other debt-related suicides). Jobcentre Plus mistakenly cancelled his JSA, so Southwark cancelled his housing and council tax benefits, creating arrears in both accounts. Southwark’s outsourced agent sent him a summons for unpaid council tax of £235.10, plus costs.
The summons (about 3m of which are dispatched a year) contains the following threats, in bold type and highlighted: “The council will be able to … instruct bailiffs to take your goods to settle your debt – this can include your car. You will be liable to pay the bailiffs’ costs which could substantially increase the debt. Instruct your employer to deduct payments from your salary or wages. Deduct money straight from your jobseeker’s allowance or income support. Make you bankrupt. Make a charging order against your home. Have you committed to prison.”
His body was found hanging in his flat. The police found the summons with him, paper littered with rough calculations and a note: “Dear … I at to do this I am in so much in Detr good By for ever Love …”
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
COMPLAINT TO PARLIAMENTARY OMBUDSMAN – magistrates courts ignore vulnerable situations and send in the bailiffs
COMPLAINT TO PARLIAMENTARY OMBUDSMAN
This is a complaint about the unreasonable enforcement of fines by the Magistrates Court fines officers without consideration of Page 9 of the National Standards for Enforcement Agents (NSEA), covering vulnerable situations, or of a change of circumstances after the fine has been set and the regular payments agreed.
Mr Smith was fined when he was employed, and kept up with his payments. But he then became unemployed and his father died. He missed two payments.
He went to the court and offered to reduce the regular payments because the change in his circumstances had reduced his income to £72.40 JSA. The fines officer refused his offer and sent in the bailiffs.
Mr Smith was not told about Page 9 of the NSEA, bereavement is one of the vulnerable situations, so he never mentioned it to the fines officer.
Also The Financial Conduct Authority has recently stated in November 2013 “Improving the consumer experience” that;
“Unemployment, looking after an elderly parent or relative, bereavement or the breakdown of a relationship are just a handful of things that can temporarily push consumers into vulnerable circumstances over the short term. We consider a vulnerable consumer to be someone who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment”.
The correct procedure under these circumstances if for the fines officer to accept a lower regular payment or return the case to the magistrates.
When the bailiffs meet these cases they should return them to the magistrates court as proposed in Page 9 of the NSEA.
TAP asked the magistrates to rehear Mr Smith’s case. They did and the remitted the tax. But we have yet to receive the letter confirming their decision.
The NSEA were first published by Lord Chancellor Department (now Minisitry of Justice) in 2002. It took 10 years before it was placed on the MOJ website. It is very ineffective because very few of the public know about it and even court officials have never heard of it. We have asked the Parliamentary Ombudsman to recommend that a copy is given to every one who is fined.
TAP Letter in The Times – 14 August 2014 – AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS THE KEY TO WELFARE REFORM – MORATORIUM ON “DEPENDENCY”
TAP Letter in The Times – 14 August 2014 - AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS THE KEY TO WELFARE REFORM – MORATORIUM ON “DEPENDENCY”
Sir, May I suggest a moratorium on the word dependency in the context of the welfare debate (“Beveridge’s Bequest”, leader, Aug 12). In February 2013 there were 5.1 million claimants of housing benefits in the UK. Tenants in particular totally depended on that benefit to keep a roof over their heads. Come April 2013 and the poorest large families (£26,000 annual limit) and single people (spare room supplement) had their housing benefit cut, leaving rent unpaid and eviction threatening.
Low-paid single people, widows and widowers, around 50 to 60 years old, becoming ill or unemployed for the first time in a long, working, tax-paying life could no longer depend on the rest of us to keep them in their family home among vital community support. The policy is to force them to move to make a better use of affordable social housing. Large families with young children suffer the same fate just because they happened to be large on April 6, 2013.
A very small minority of benefit claimants might be dependent on benefits to such an extent that it is corrosive to the wellbeing of individuals. Most need them but wish they did not. Yet all are publicly branded and their incomes reduced, even though the fault lies with the lack of any governmental policy to provide enough affordable housing for many decades.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
Oppressive UK government forces unmanageable debts on poorest citizens then adds the costs of the bailiffs
This letter is published today ( 8th August) in The Tablet – The international catholic weekly.
GOVERNMENTAL ACTS OF INJUSTICE &
MORAL LINES OF CREDIT
A church policy of helping people to stop borrowing from high-interest lenders with the expansion of credit unions is entirely necessary (“Credit to the community”, 2 August). It is, however, a policy of leaving the stable door ajar while increasing numbers of horses are bolting. It will take decades even to stop the number of high-interest loans increasing while politicians continue to create unmanageable council tax and rent arrears for low-income households and enforce them against diminishing incomes with the addition of court costs and bailiffs’ fees.
Catherine Pepinster (2 August) cites Amartya Sen, who holds that we act with justice if we remove obstacles to living a valuable life; sadly British politics, by failing to provide a policy for affordable housing to rent or to buy, and then taxing working-age benefit incomes with council tax, creates the risk of an obstacle of unmanageable debt for around 12 million benefit claimants in work and unemployment.
The Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against Poverty,