The Archbishop of York has launched a blistering attack on benefits cuts in Bradford, warning poverty is on the rise.
Dr John Sentamu intervened during a House of Lords debate on prospects for the city, to urge the Government to think again.
Revealing a detailed knowledge of the impact on Bradford, the Archbishop criticised: * The flagship ‘benefit cap’ – warning families were being plunged into rent arrears after losing almost £50 a week and adding: “What sense does that make?”
* Harsh sanctions that had stripped benefits from 1,130 disabled people for up to 13 weeks – describing it as “astonishing to me”.
* Government plans to abolish an £180m-a-year ‘crisis fund’ for councils to provide emergency help for poor families.
* The danger of “community discord” in Bradford, if high levels of unemployment continued.
Dr Sentamu praised the “fantastic” efforts of young people he met undertaking a “leaders programme” at the Bradford Church of England Academy.
But he told ministers: “In parts of the city, Church Urban Fund research indicates that child poverty rates are as high as 42 per cent.
“What will happen to those children if the Government abolish, as they plan to do, the ring-fenced funding given to local councils for crisis payments and community care grants?”
“The link between poor health, poor housing and poverty is of particular concern, with just over a quarter of the district’s children classed as living in poverty.”
The Archbishop said 287 families across the Bradford district had been hit by the £26,000-a-year cap on overall benefits, for families out of work.
He asked: “The average reduction to housing benefit for those families is £49.29 and needs to be made up from other benefits to avoid rent arrears. What sense does that make?
“Why is it that in Bradford, 1,130 disabled people have fallen foul of Jobcentre sanctions and left without any income for periods of between four and 13 weeks. That is astonishing to me.”
Last year, Dr Sentamu and the Archbishop of Canterbury clashed with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith over benefit cuts.
Mr Duncan Smith accused church leaders of failing to recognise that he was attempting to change a system that “trapped people in welfare dependency”.
However, replying in the Lords debate, Baroness Stowell, a local government minister, ducked a clash over benefits cuts.
Instead, the minister pointed to the West Yorkshire ‘City Deal’ which aimed to create work and training opportunities for 20,000 young people.
And she said: “It is worth noting that growth in Bradford has outstripped regional and national averages since 2008.
“The first way in which we are helping in this area is through the regional growth fund. Projects in Bradford have secured almost £22m.”