Government uses hunger as a punishment, blasts Church

Beyond foodbanks cropped

Church of Scotland minister condemns UK government in furious speech at General Assembly

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19th May 2015 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

The Church of Scotland has demanded an urgent reform of the tax system to tackle low wages, benefit sanctions and foodbank use.

In a strongly worded delivery at its General Assembly, Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church and Society Council, blasted the UK government’s characterization of those on benefits as “rubbish” and claimed it is using “hunger as a punishment”.

She said families, young people and those with mental health problems are being disproportionally penalised by welfare changes and called for an immediate suspension of sanctions for people with children or suffering from mental ill health while it conducts a full independent review.

She said the church - which held a Beyond Foodbanks conference in February - is challenging the stigma of poverty, confronting the dangerous rhetoric that blames the poor for their poverty dismissing them as strivers and skivers, enjoying a benefits lifestyle.

“These unfair definitions divide and diminish us all and pit us one against the other,” Foster-Fulton added.

Government uses hunger as a punishment, blasts ChurchRev Sally Foster-Fulton

We become suspicious rather than supportive. We need justice, not judgment

“We become suspicious rather than supportive. We need justice, not judgment.”

In a full and frank address the convener noted Scotland’s political outlook and attitudes to politics are beginning to change.

Describing it as “exciting and uncertain times” she said the Church could be at the forefront as it is one of the few organisations which can afford to take a long-term approach to issues which require long-term action.

She said: “It is vital that we all recognise over the last year Scotland has begun to grow into a different sort of democracy, one that is no longer content simply to vote every few years and leave the decisions to others.”

The Church and Society Council will consult communities across Scotland over the next year at long-term ways to reduce inequality, she added.

Foster-Fulton also used her speech to reiterate a call of concern over the continued detention of asylum seekers at Dungavel.

Pleading with people to support a planned protest at the centre on 30 May, she said: “We continue to press the Home Office to allow a visit to see conditions for ourselves.

“Our decency as a society is predicated on how we treat the imprisoned and the stranger.

“The on-going crisis in the Mediterranean requires us in the United Kingdom and indeed all of the European Union to do our part to offer safety to refugees fleeing in their thousands.”