LONDON, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The archbishop of Westminster, the head of the Catholic Church in Britain, blasted the government's welfare policies Friday, calling them "punitive."
Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols called the welfare reform instituted by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith a "disgrace," the Guardian reported. Smith is an observant Catholic.
Nichols told the Daily Telegraph he is especially upset by policies that delay benefits when applicants fill out forms incorrectly.
"So if applicants don't get it right, then they have to wait for 10 days, for two weeks, with nothing -- with nothing," he said. "For a country of our affluence, that, quite frankly, is a disgrace."
Nichols said he recognizes the need for the government to trim spending and to be "responsible and careful."
"But I think what is happening is two things: one is that the basic safety net that was there to guarantee that people would not be left in hunger or in destitution has actually been torn apart," he said. "It no longer exists and that is a real, real dramatic crisis. And the second is that, in this context, the administration of social assistance, I am told, has become more and more punitive."