The Rt Rev David Walker criticised the "Kafkaesque" workings of the welfare system, which he said produced too many wrongly imposed sanctions and delays. The Bishop of Manchester made the remarks at a Conservative Party conference fringe event in the city.
He claimed innocent people are trapped in the drive to catch fraudsters.
The bishop said:
The way that policy is being implemented - there are too many delays, there are too many wrong decisions and that does lead to too many innocent people effectively being punished.The bishop backed Universal Credit but was not confident poor people would not continue to bear the burden of inefficiencies in the system.
We have to let a few manipulative people get away with it if we're not going to have too many innocent people punished.
I don't think we can put the burden of proof so far over to making sure nobody ever pulls one over our eyes that we trap lots of innocent people.
Criticising the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) he said:
My first priority would be to drive down the unacceptable delays in benefit payments and the wrongful or overzealous imposition of sanctions. I think they have got out of hand and at times it's almost Kafkaesque to have a situation that is dysfunctional, [which] dissuades people from getting involved with it - is that in itself meant to be a disincentive?A DWP statement said: "Our vital reforms are restoring fairness to the system for claimants as well as the taxpayer." A spokesperson also stressed that fraud is unacceptable as the money needs to go to those in need.