On 25th November 2014, the Bishop fo St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer from the Depatment of Work and Pensions on the Work Capability Assessment.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether people who are undergoing a work capability assessment because of mental health problems are guaranteed assessment by health professionals who have psychiatric expertise.[HL2851]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): All healthcare professionals who carry out work capability assessments on behalf of the DWP are fully trained in disability assessment and are registered with their respective Regulatory Body. Healthcare professionals receive comprehensive training in the functional effects of mental health conditions. In addition all health professionals are supported by mental function champions who have specialist knowledge of mental health conditions and provide support and best practice advice.
On 24th November 2014, Lord McKenzie of Luton asked Her Majesty’s Government how many households are in receipt of the housing element of Universal Credit. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the House will be aware that the Chancellor has announced that the working allowances for universal credit will be frozen until April 2018. There is a real danger, if there is no lift in those allowances—at least in line with inflation—that that will significantly reduce the real net incomes of low earners. Could the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what assessment Her Majesty’s Government have made of the impact of these measures on the level of poverty among those who are already in work, especially for those families who are earning too little to benefit from further rises in the personal tax allowances?
Lord Freud: The working allowances in universal credit are much greater than under the legacy system, so there is a freeze that will have a small effect. Nevertheless, the poverty impacts are to take 300,000 children out of poverty.
On 19th November 2014, Lord Lea of Crondall asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they have made any proposal to other European Union member states, either severally or collectively, which would limit (1) the right of United Kingdom citizens to live and work in other European Union member states, or (2) the parallel right of citizens of other European Union member states to live and work in the United Kingdom. The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd John Inge, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, the Minister mentioned the reputation that this country has for hospitality. Is he aware of an associated issue: the difficulty that members of the Commonwealth face in obtaining a visa even to visit, let alone to work and live in this country, which seriously hampers a lot of very important overseas links with dioceses, including my own—so much so that my friends in Tanzania were unable to be present at my wife’s funeral earlier this year? Is that sort of impediment government policy and, if not, can he assure us that it will be addressed?
Lord Bates: We very much encourage people to come to this country, whether to study or to work. We want to encourage the best and the brightest to come to this country, as well as tourists; there are many people we want to encourage—but there is a difference between that and people who significantly abuse the system in coming here because of benefits.
On 18th November 2014, Baroness King of Bow asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the recent drop in referrals of children for adoption by local authorities. The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd John Inge, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, whatever the assessment of these figures, there remains a task to be done concerning negative perceptions about adoption in this country? Does he agree with the observation of a judge in the adoption of one of my children that whereas conception is sometimes a biological accident, adoption is always an act of love? Does he agree that it is a noble task and a noble thing to do? What are the Government doing to promote adoption in that light?
Lord Nash: As is well known, the Government have in place a very active reform programme on adoption which has had quite a substantial effect. I agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate’s comments. I was interested to see recent research by Professor Julie Selwyn at Bristol which shows that only 3% of adoptions break down. I think there is cross-party consensus that where there is no option of staying with the birth family, a long-term relationship with loving adoptive parents who have been well scrutinised is clearly in the best interests of the child.
On 18th November 2014, Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of cuts in funding to local authorities in the most deprived and least deprived areas of England. The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the dedicated funding for local welfare provision has been vital in providing a net for some of the most vulnerable in society. It is proposed that this will no longer be ring-fenced but will be part of a general grant to local councils, at a time when their budgets are increasingly pressed—indeed, there may be a move for that money to be used for core statutory services in future. If that money is not to be ring-fenced, will the Minister tell us how Her Majesty’s Government will monitor the effects of these changes and whether they will be willing to report back to your Lordships’ House on them, to ensure that the most vulnerable are not even further disadvantaged?
Baroness Williams of Trafford: The right reverend Prelate makes a good point. The ring-fenced funding pots were not always used for their intended purposes. It is the Government’s belief that in devolving funds straight to local authorities they will make the best use of them. I shall follow up the right reverend Prelate’s question on reporting back—I am sure that we can report back in due course.
On 18th November 2014, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, received an answer from Home Office Minister Lord Bates on the subject of the Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have any plans to ratify the Istanbul Convention now that the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2014 has received Royal Assent. [HL2559]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bates): The Coalition Government signed the Istanbul Convention on 8 June 2012 signalling its strong commitment on tackling violence against women and girls. The UK already has some of the most robust protections in the world against violence towards women and we already comply with the majority of the articles to the convention. Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans presses Government to ratify Istanbul Convention”