The following letter, expressing concern about the consequences of the two-child limit policy for children and families was signed by sixty bishops (including nineteen Lords Spiritual) and representatives from other denominations and faiths. It appeared in The Times newspaper on 6th April 2018.
The publication of the letter coincided with the release of a report from the End Child Poverty Coalition assessing the impact of the policy, which was introduced in April 2017. The accompanying press release from the Coalition can be accessed here, and the Church of England’s media notice is available here.
The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, published a blog on the Church of England’s website on the same day, the full text of which is also reproduced below.
Two-child limit on Universal Credit
Sir, Today the “two-child limit” policy, which restricts tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in a family, has been in place for a year. The policy is making it harder for parents to achieve a stable and resilient family life. By 2021, 640,000 families will have been affected. Most are low-earning working families, most have three children and some will have made decisions about family size when they were able to support children through earnings alone, but later claimed tax credits or universal credit after bereavement, redundancy, separation, disability, illness or simply low pay.
The policy is expected to tip an estimated extra 200,000 children into poverty. It also conveys the regrettable message that some children matter less than others, depending on their place in the sibling birth order.
It is a grave concern that there are likely to be mothers who will face an invidious choice between poverty and terminating an unplanned pregnancy.
Children are a private joy and a public good. They are all equally deserving of subsistence support.
The Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London; the Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham; Harun Khan, secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain; Gillian Merron, chief executive, Board of Deputies of British Jews; Dr Philip McCarthy, chief executive, Caritas Social Action Network; Alison Garnham, chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group; Shaykh Mohammad Yazdani Raza (Misbahi), London Fatwa Council; Jill Baker, vice-president of the Methodist Conference 2017-18; The Rev Loraine N Mellor, president of the Methodist Conference 2017-18; Sam Royston, chairman, End Child Poverty Coalition; Paul Parker, recording clerk, Quakers in Britain; the Rt Rev Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester; the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich; the Rt Rev David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham; the Rt Rev Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester; the Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry; the Rt Rev Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford; Rt Rev Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans; the Rt Rev James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle; the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, Bishop of Portsmouth; the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford; the Rt Rev James Langstaff, Bishop of Rochester; the Rt Rev Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely; the Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark; the Rt Rev Nick Baines, Bishop of Leeds; the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury; the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester; the Rt Rev Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle; the Rt Rev Tim Thornton, Trustee of Feeding Britain; the Rt Rev Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester; the Rt Rev Richard Frith, Bishop of Hereford; the Rt Rev Paul Williams, Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham; the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester; the Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, Bishop of Lichfield; the Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield; the Rt Rev Peter Eagles, Bishop of Sodor and Man; the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden; the Rt Rev Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham; the Rt Rev John Stroyan, Bishop of Warwick; the Rt Rev Clive Gregory, Bishop of Wolverhampton; the Rt Rev Mark Bryant, Bishop of Jarrow; the Rt Rev Alan Winton, Bishop of Thetford; the Rt Rev Richard Blackburn, Bishop of Warrington; the Rt Rev Geoff Annas, Bishop of Stafford; the Rt Rev John Holbrook, Bishop of Brixworth; the Rt Rev Jonathan Meyrick, Bishop of Lynn; the Rt Rev Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney; the Rt Rev Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon; the Rt Rev Dr Edward Condry, Bishop of Ramsbury; the Rt Rev Glyn Webster, Bishop of Beverley; the Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon; the Rt Rev Graham Usher, Bishop of Dudley; the Rt Rev Richard Jackson, Bishop of Lewes; the Rt Rev Paul Ferguson, Bishop of Whitby; the Rt Rev Dr John Thomson, Bishop of Selby; the Rt Rev David Court, Bishop of Grimsby; the Rt Rev Roger Morris, Bishop of Colchester; the Rt Rev David Williams, Bishop of Basingstoke; the Rt Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs, Bishop of Huddersfield; the Rt Rev Dr Toby Howarth, Bishop of Bradford; the Rt Rev Philip North, Bishop of Burnley; the Rt Rev Rod Thomas, Bishop of Maidstone; the Rt Rev Dr Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington; the Rt Rev Rod Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton; the Rt Rev Anne Hollinghurst, Bishop of Aston; the Rt Rev Jan McFarlane, Bishop of Repton; the Rt Rev Mark Tanner, Bishop of Berwick; the Rt Rev Robert Springett, Bishop of Tewksbury; the Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, Bishop of Loughborough
[the names of the nineteen Lords Spiritual who signed the letter are in bold]
(Via The Times)
A blessing not a burden: why every child should be valued equally
Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham
The government’s welfare reforms have commanded headlines over the past few years. But this one, which restricts the level of financial support given to families with more than two children regardless of need, has been largely overlooked.
Christian tradition has always recognised children as a blessing and not a burden. Anything which sends the implicit message that a third or fourth child is any less valued than the first should be strongly resisted.
When this policy was considered in the House of Lords, I worked closely with other Bishops and peers to outline our concerns. One year on, my fears have only grown as we see the real impact on families and children.
At least 200,000 more children will be pushed into poverty by the time the two-child limit is fully implemented, whilst many more will be trapped even deeper. A senior researcher at a respected independent think tank put it to me very starkly: if you set out to design a policy to increase child poverty, then it would be hard to do much better than the two-child limit.
Some communities will be hit especially hard, particularly those whose faith includes a devout desire to avoid contraception or abortion.
The two-child limit wrongly assumes that all children can be planned, and that all families can accurately predict their financial circumstances eighteen years into the future at the time when they decide to have a child. We know life is far more complicated: contraception can fail; families may separate and re-form; jobs can be gained and lost; and none of us can guarantee that we will not face ill-health or bereavement.
As a society, we believe in justice and compassion. It is simply not right that some children get support and others don’t. The UK is unique in having a two-child limit; in fact, the majority of developed countries provide extra, rather than less, support for larger families.
We share a moral responsibility to make sure that every child has a decent standard of living, no matter who they are or where they come from. The Government has an opportunity to right this wrong by removing its two-child limit policy. We urge the Prime Minister to address this burning injustice.