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'This is not up to politics to solve': Tory politician urges Christians to seek God as poverty levels surge

by Heather Preston
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A parliamentary candidate (PPC) for the Conservative Party has told Premier Christian News that Christians should be looking to God to provide for their needs, as the number of people living in poverty in the UK exceeds 14.4 million.

Miriam Cates PPC for Penistone and Stocksbridge was speaking as part of a round table debate on poverty and the economy, addressing claims that conservative policies have left people in the UK without enough money to cover basic essentials such as food.

Cates said that while she sympathises with those who are struggling, conservative policies are not to blame, stating: “there is no easy answer to this issue.”

“I think we need to be realistic about what the state can do, and actually what our expectations of the state are as Christians” she said, suggesting that Christian communities have a vital role to play in supporting those in need. “Do we expect the state to provide for our needs or do we expect God and our community to provide for our needs?”

Cates said that a functioning welfare state is needed but questioned how we accomplish it and asking "who would you want to tax more?"

“Do we have more national debt, but that will push up inflation and make the cost of living crisis worse? Do we tax people more, but that makes work not worth it and then we put off wealth creators, there just aren't any easy answers for this.”

“This is not up to politics to solve,” Cates added.

She says an aging population has contributed to tax rises and that it is not a “political choice to cut benefits and tax more”, but rather a necessity due to the fact we have less working people.

Former business owners Paul and Sam Helsby ended up on Universal Credit after a stroke left Paul unable to work. The couple quickly ended up in financial trouble and turned to debt help charity Christians Against Poverty (CAP) for support. The Helsby's told Premier Christian News that while they agreed with Cates view that real change and provision comes ultimately from God and His Church, those who don't know Christians need to turn to the state to look after them in times of crisis.

According to the latest data from foodbank charity the Trussell Trust, 780,000 people on Universal Credit were forced to use a food bank in January while 3.1million emergency parcels were distributed by the charity's network of foodbanks in the past 12 months.

Labour PPC for East Ham Stephen Timms was also part of the debate. He told Premier Christian News that people currently on benefits “can’t make ends meet,” stressing that a “safety net” is needed to support them.

A recent study by the Trussell Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that 5 in 6 low-income households on Universal Credit are currently going without essentials. The charities are calling on the next government to make a legal minimum allowance (the ‘Essentials Guarantee’) in Universal Credit that is in line with the rate of inflation.

Timms says the Labour Party is committed to “end mass dependence on food banks” and "break down barriers to opportunity" but that a “big repair job” is needed:

“The problems we're discussing are not going to be fixed overnight. But we do need to commit ourselves to saying we’ve got to do better than this … and over a period of time, repair the terrible damage that's been done."

Paul Pickhaver, leader of City Changer Projects – a church initiative in Kingston told Premier Christian News that while he agrees there is no easy answer when it comes to solving problems with the economy, changes are needed to help those who are struggling.

“People have to come together; parties have to come together. Politicians have to come together. They have to join hands with communities, and they have to say, how do we build for the future?”

Sarah Edwards, CEO of Christian advocacy group JustMoney Movement says we need to take a different perspective on taxes and understand that they are a blessing that can help us better serve our communities.

"We need to look at tax as a tool for creating the kind of society where we can all have at least the basics," she said.

"We have huge and disproportionately high levels of wealth in the UK, wealth is very concentrated. For example, the top fifth of the population have over 60 per cent of the wealth."

JustMoney Movement is calling for a tax on wealth for the super wealthy, which Edwards says could raise up to £22 billion - the amount that the Trussell Trust estimates could fund the Essentials Guarantees to ensure everyone can afford the basics.

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