Justin Welby: Food banks users ‘aren’t scroungers’

The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised Conservative ministers for dividing the nation to justify their welfare reforms

The Archbishop of Canterbury has criticised Conservative ministers for dividing the nation into “scroungers and strivers” as they justify their welfare reforms.

The Most Rev Justin Welby also accused Lord Freud, the Welfare Reform minister, of getting his facts wrong after he suggested that the Government’s squeeze on benefits was not responsible for the growth in food banks. Lord Freud said last week: “It is difficult to know which came first – supply or demand.”

The Archbishop pointed to a Church of England analysis showing that in Durham, 35 per cent of people using food banks were referred by social services because they were entitled to benefit that had not been paid. A similar figure was cited by charities after the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced that the unemployed would have to wait for seven days before they could claim jobseeker’s allowance. Dr Welby added: “Maybe he [Lord Freud] has different figures but those were certainly the figures we kept in the churches … We are very strict about our statistics and we don’t just hand out food – you have to be referred.”

He told BBC Radio 4 it was important not to use “derogatory language”, adding: “I think there is a danger … that people are categorised, that all people on benefit are seen as scroungers and that’s clearly completely untrue.”

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