<pChurch of England bishops on Tuesday called for urgent action to improve Britain's new comprehensive welfare program, known as universal credit, amid reports that some claimants may lose as much as 2,400 pounds ($3,172) a year.
<pUniversal credit replaces six existing benefits, including housing subsidies and child tax credits, with a single payment. Bishops say that there is evidence of increased demand at food banks in areas where the benefit has been introduced.
<p"We need … a long-term commitment that the social security system will provide enough income for them to afford to feed themselves and their families properly," said Paul Butler, the bishop of Durham. "Without such action, we can expect to see more and more people turning to food banks and becoming trapped in poverty."
<pThe appeal by the bishops comes amid reports that the government is planning to slow down the rollout of the new system. The rollout began in 2013, but so far only new claimants have been put on the system. Political leaders are expressing concern about the wider rollout, questioning whether the government is ready for the process and the consequences on the nation's most vulnerable.
<pPrime Minister Theresa May's government has been under extreme pressure to inject more funds into the system.
<pWork and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey told lawmakers Monday she had been discussing the program with Treasury chief Philip Hammond and that the outcome of the talks will be revealed later this month when he unveils the budget.
<pLouise Casey, the former head of the government's troubled families team, told the BBC on Tuesday that the program should be "halted and sorted out" to stop thousands of people falling into "crippling debt."