Tuesday, 3 November 2015

“A Typical Family” - Poor Families - God’s Family…

“The typical family can expect to be £2,000 better off despite the proposed cuts in tax credits.” That’s one of the assertions I saw recently in the Press in the build-up to the House of Lords vote which overturned the Government’s plan to reduce the level of tax credits paid to lower-paid workers and poorer families.

I’m not sure how the politicians assess what a “typical family” is. The Government has some praiseworthy aims - amongst them the reduction both of the nation’s “deficit” and of the need for so many to be dependent upon benefits, whether they be social payments or tax credits. The increase in the National Minimum Wage is important in this respect - though I find myself disturbed that the Government has tried to call it the “National Living Wage” - effectively undercutting what others had independently assessed to be the true amount necessary to ensure a basic quality of living.

But the Maths don’t add up. It’s clear that at least half of poorer paid workers and families on tax credits would find the cuts greater than any increase received from the new minimum wage and higher tax threshold. And even if 80% stood to benefit - as the Government first asserted - such a course must be questioned if only for the effect on the 20% who would not benefit, because these would be the poorest of all.

All politicians these days sing the merits of “hard-working families.” But this doesn’t help when there is no job to work hard at. It doesn’t help when hard work is still rewarded only with the lowest possible wage. If you’re a “typical” person in employment, you might expect to benefit. But can you easily accept those benefits if their cost is real hardship for those who are poor?

I was in another church recently where someone was saying how disappointed he was at the congregation’s level of response to an appeal for a local Foodbank. I agree with the importance of Foodbank initiatives and glad we support our own. But then I thought of some of the people in that congregation of which he was speaking, who could themselves barely make ends meet; how could they contribute when they might themselves need the Foodbank? We need to recognise the needs of others - but I’m afraid we need to recognise that those others might include people we sit next to in our own churches. The poor are not other people, the object of our charity, somebody else. Remember that. Remember Jesus’ words: “He sent me to bring good news to the poor….”

Martin Jackson

from the November Parish Magazine - follow the links from the top of this blog page, or find it by clicking here

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