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Churches slam British government's welfare reforms

Sunday - 3/31/2013, 10:30am  ET

JILL LAWLESS
Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- Government welfare reforms that include a contentious cut dubbed the "bedroom tax" will cause upheaval for some of Britain's most vulnerable people, religious leaders and anti-poverty activists claim.

The measure, which takes effect Monday, will reduce rent subsidies to social housing tenants if they have a spare bedroom.

The government -- which prefers the term "under-occupancy penalty" -- says it is one of a series of changes that will make the country's unwieldy welfare system simpler, cheaper and fairer.

But thousands of trade unionists, advocates for the disabled and anti-poverty campaigners held protest marches against the change on Saturday, and on Sunday four churches released a joint criticism of the reforms. The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist and United Reform churches and the Church of Scotland argued that "the cuts are unjust and that the most vulnerable will pay a disproportionate price."

"Our feeling is that these benefit changes are a symptom of an understanding of people in poverty in the United Kingdom that is just wrong," Methodist spokesman Paul Morrison told the BBC.
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