Charities concerned at 'the public costs incurred by rising poverty levels'

Thirteen leading Catholic charities have said that recent changes to the benefit system may end up costing more than they save as poverty levels rise.

In an open letter to Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the House of Common’s Public Accounts Committee, the chief executives of the charities called upon the cross-party parliamentary committee to investigate the impact of the Government’s welfare reforms on public expenditure.

Among the signatories of the Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) are the Cardinal Hume Centre, St Vincent de Paul Society, the Catholic Children’s Society and the Brentwood Catholic Children’s Society.

In the letter they say: “We are writing as Catholic charities working to support the poorest families and individuals throughout the UK, regarding the public costs incurred by rising poverty levels.

“This issue is particularly relevant to child poverty, due to the well documented impact upon children’s health and education, which potentially generates significant financial implications for the taxpayer, in addition to the immediate human consequences. It is concerning that despite the projected impact upon families of recent changes to the benefit system, very little consideration has been given to the respective public costs.

“For example, whilst the DWP acknowledged that restrictions to housing benefit may result in overcrowding, adversely affecting health, mental wellbeing and children’s educational attainment, the resultant long-term impact upon public finances has not been quantified. With thousands of children now living in overcrowded accommodation and sharing bedrooms with their parents, this factor alone has the potential for considerable exported costs to the NHS, the education system and the wider economy.”