Church of England leaders will attack the Government on Tuesday over its introduction of the bedroom tax, which they claim shows “almost a cultural disregard for the lives of the poor”.
In a stinging rebuke of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reform, senior clergy described it as “unjust”, “ineffective” and “deeply unfair”.
At the General Synod in Westminster, they will debate whether the Church should hold an inquiry into the impact of the policy.
The bedroom tax, which the Government says is the removal of the “spare room subsidy”, was designed to free up larger homes that were under-occupied by removing housing benefit for any spare rooms. But with a national shortage of one and two bedroom properties, many families are unable to move and have growing rent arrears as they are charged extra to stay in the same place.
A paper criticising its impact submitted by the diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales ahead of today’s vote says: “As well as being ineffective, we perceive both the principle behind the policy and the consequences of its implementation to be unjust.”
The paper also asserts that: “In the principle of the tax we see a deep unfairness and almost cultural disregard for the lives of the poor and a devaluing of commitment to place and community which have always been a core consideration of the Church of England.”
It adds: “The bedroom tax voices a disregard for... the lives of the most vulnerable in a way that would never be done to the more wealthy and for this reason is unjust.”
The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, is one of several senior clergy expected to support an inquiry into the policy. He said: “At the heart of the Christian faith is we are called to care for the poor. In my experience a lot of people affected by the bedroom tax are disabled people and a lot are children.
“We have a responsibility to shout about the stuff that everyone seems to have forgotten. ”
Ian Fletcher, a lay member of Synod for West Yorkshire and the Dales, will make a speech introducing the vote today. He said: “What this motion is trying to do is highlight the issues caused by the bedroom tax.”
A DWP spokesman said: “The removal of the spare room subsidy is absolutely necessary to return fairness to the system, make a better use of our social housing and get the ballooning housing benefit bill under control. Since May 2013 we have made £345m available to councils to help the most vulnerable people.”