This week saw the publication of the Spring Financial Statement – which is essentially a mini-budget. Rarely have the Chancellor’s words been more anticipated as we find ourselves in a ‘cost of living’ storm – rising energy prices, rising food prices, a rise in National Insurance, and slowing economic growth in the context of war and our country’s necessary realignment outside of the EU. It’s a daunting list on the back of Covid.
Sometimes as Christians we turn away from economic policy focusing on ethical ‘life’ questions, but as one Christian author has noted “budgets are moral documents”. Budgets at a personal and national level reveal what we value and prioritise. And so, they should matter to us.
Our Chancellor Rishi Sunak faces hard choices – now and in the years to come. He and other politicians need our ongoing prayers for wisdom. But my responsibility goes beyond prayer. I am commanded in Scripture to show good stewardship of the gifts and blessings I have been given in a way that is sacrificially generous and loving to others.
The words charity and love have been used interchangeably in different translations of the Bible and often God’s idea of how I am to love my neighbor goes beyond alleviating immediate need (Isiah 58:7) – good though it is to do that. I also seek to “loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke” (Isaiah 58:6).
Here’s how CARE is taking up the Lord’s challenge to help now and tackle the long-term chains that people are asked to carry.
For many years, CARE’s faithfully engaged in evaluating our tax system. God ordained families to be at the heart of a good society and for many years we have campaigned to change our tax system that is biased against families and households.
Our latest report will be launched in Parliament in the coming days. It demonstrates how raising tax thresholds is absolutely the wrong thing to do in terms of helping families and those struggling the most.
The UK is internationally unusual (not in a good way) in having a highly indivudulised tax system. It does not recognise the needs and challenges faced by families and households and it is high time politicians admitted our tax system is not fair because it places greater pressure on the institution of the household that is best placed to tackle poverty.
We also need to recognize that poverty is now a serious issue in the UK. I’ve worked with families who have to choose between eating and heating. Even the ‘Money Saving Expert’ Martin Lewis has said that the current cost of living storm about to hit millions of families will not be solved by good money management. The problem is far too severe and big for good household money management to fix the challenges faced by millions. We need greater systemic answers. This is why CARE’s persistently called out injustice in the tax system. For all the good that can be done to help those in poverty, if you don’t also tackle a biased tax system that penalizes families unfairly, progress will be much slower.
The cost-of-living storm may well push more of our neighbours into poverty and the challenge is not only grieve about it but find solutions that go beyond handouts and towards a hand-up.
Through our work on the tax system, where we promote the importance of families and strong households and cherishing the gift of life and all that means for people’s flourishing, we are working with politicians across the UK to find a better story through these times.
The Chancellor and our politicians do indeed need our prayers, and our support for good policies that protect and promote families and households to flourish. They need our thinking, and God’s grace as we navigate this difficult time together, and CARE will be there speaking truth and love into Government laws, policies, and decisions about our future.