On 27th January 2016 the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, proposed an amendment at Report Stage to the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill. The amendment, supported by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Crossbench Peers, set out exemptions from the two-child limit for new claimants of tax credit and universal credit for kinship carers, bereaved parents, those fleeing domestic violence and disabled children. The Bishop of Durham supported the amendment and his speech is below. During his response to the amendment the Minister Lord Freud offered a number of concessions, most notably on kinship carers, and as a result the amendment was not put to a vote.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I would like to tell two stories that illustrate why I believe two of these exemptions are important. A good friend of mine and his wife were unable to have children, and they put themselves forward as adoptive parents. They went through the rigorous process—this was a few years ago—and with great pride entered a room with several of us who had our own children and presented a piece of paper that said, “I have been authorised to become a parent in a way that none of you ever have”. This was a great joy. They were then asked if they would take three children, because those children had been born to the same mother and had experienced serious abuse living in a home with addiction. The absolute conviction of all concerned was that it was vital that these three children remained together. We, as a society, asked them to care for those children. They took up that responsibility and have exercised it for many years. They have, on our behalf, saved an enormous amount of money through those children not going into care. Also, a much longer-term point is that those children are healthy, well-educated and will be fantastic contributors to society. That is one of the reasons why adoption needs to be exempted.
The second story is of another two friends. When their first child was born, they had to come to terms with a severe disability. They had a second child who was fine and healthy. They chose to have a third child. That child also turned out to be disabled. Under the current proposals, without the exemptions they would not be given any support for that child other than the extra disability support. These are the children and the families we are dealing with in considering these exemptions. I sincerely hope, like others, that the Minister has had time really to consider such situations and has better news for us.