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Catholics call on Chancellor to tackle poverty

Leading Catholic organisations have called on the Chancellor to focus on tackling poverty ahead of the Spring Budget this year.

Catholic Bishops in England, and Wales, and Scotland along with CAFOD, CSAN, and the Catholic Union of Great Britain have written to the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, calling on him to “put tackling poverty at the heart” of the next Budget, which is due to take place on 6 March.

In what is likely to be the last Budget before the next General Election, Catholic organisations have made a joint representation to the Treasury on the need to help people escape poverty both at home and abroad.

The letter contains a number of policy suggestions, including the need for a fairer tax and benefit system and restoring the overseas aid budget to 0.7% of GNI as promised by the Government at the last election.

The joint letter between Catholic Bishops and lay groups is the first of its kind and shows the “deep concern” that exists within the Catholic community for the poorest in society.

The letter also calls for the Budget proposals to be assessed in relation to poverty metrics to make sure that any changes to tax and spending will benefit those on the margins of society.

Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, comments: “Pope Francis has implored politicians and leaders to ensure that people living in poverty don’t end up as an ‘afterthought’ in their decisions. We know that Catholics throughout the country in this election year will be urging the Chancellor and all political leaders to set out policies that help people escape poverty – both here at home and around the world.”

Bishop Brian McGee, Bishop President of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, comments: “When I travel with SCIAF I meet many people who are desperately poor. These are not to be passed over as anonymous and faceless. Each one is a human being, our sister or brother who deserves not only to be helped but justice.”

James Somerville-Meikle, Catholic Union Deputy Director, comments: “There has been a great deal of speculation already about what the next Budget will contain. We strongly urge the Chancellor to use what may well be the last Budget before the next General Election to focus on the common good. Tackling poverty is something which Catholics care deeply about. This letter is a great sign of unity from the Catholic community in this country and sends a strong message that concern for the poorest in society needs to be front and centre of this next Budget.”