Bishop of St Albans calls for end to freeze on working age benefits, to help children and families

On 16th November 2017 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, led a debate in the House of Lords on the benefit freeze. His opening speech and that of the Minister responding are below. The whole debate can be read here.

“The Lord Bishop of St Albans to ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the impact of rising inflation on families affected by the freeze of working age benefits.”

Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, we are at risk of failing a substantial number of children and some of the most needy people of this country. If a society is to be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable, then unless we are prepared to put aside party difference and make common purpose in addressing inequalities in our system of social security, we will surely be found wanting. Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans calls for end to freeze on working age benefits, to help children and families”

Bishop of Ely on the need for schools to tackle deprivation and disadvantage

On Thursday 16th November 2017 Lord Bird led a debate in the House of Lords, “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what new resources and strategies they will implement to ensure that every child has the opportunity to attend a good school and that all schools are fairly funded, as announced in the Queen’s Speech.” The Bishop of Ely, Rt Revd Stephen Conway, spoke in the debate, focusing on church schools:

The Lord Bishop of Ely: Follow that! My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for having made this debate possible and for providing the opportunity for us to focus not only on a fair distribution of funding for our schools and the children in their care but on fair access to good teaching in good and imaginative schools.

The Church has, down the centuries, provided a constant yet adaptable force in education. The Church of England recently produced a new vision for education, two pillars of which are dignity and hope. As the ultimate aim of our schools is to promote human flourishing, we are particularly concerned—particularly in our emphasis on supporting schools in areas of disadvantage—to enable every child to fulfil his or her aspirations, and indeed to be given the opportunity to have any aspirations in the first place. Continue reading “Bishop of Ely on the need for schools to tackle deprivation and disadvantage”

Bishop of Durham calls for urgent changes to “flawed system” of universal credit

On 16th November 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Hollis of Heigham “That this House takes note of the impact of Universal Credit on claimants.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, on securing this debate and on her introduction.

Universal credit originally set out to simplify a fragmented, complex system and to reduce poverty through the simple, noble philosophy of making work pay. While it still has the potential to transform this ​broken system, its current shape risks undermining these two core objectives for the neediest in the nation and thus failing British families. Almost every week, I receive heart-breaking stories about how the transition to UC is devastating the lives of claimants. What does the five or six-week waiting period, which is often longer, actually look like for a family or single parent with young children? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham calls for urgent changes to “flawed system” of universal credit”

Bishop of St Albans leads debate on risks of rising household debt

On Monday 13th November the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, led a debate in the House of Lords on the levels of household debt in the UK. His opening speech is below, along with the responding speech of the Government Minister (all the speeches in the debate can be read here).

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the risks posed by current levels of household debt in the United Kingdom.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I am deeply concerned—as I know are many other Members of this Chamber—about rising levels of household debt in this country. Households in the UK are taking ​on far more debt than they used to and overall are taking on more debt than they bring home in income. While the ratio of household debt to income has not yet eclipsed the 160% peak hit in early 2008, it currently hovers around 140%, a dramatic shift from the ratio of 95% in 1997.

Of course there are good reasons why families in this country choose to take on debt—perhaps to buy a house or another form of secured debt—but, nevertheless, we know that for some people the prospect of saving for a house is inconceivable and that those who are lucky enough to purchase a house take on an extremely high level of mortgage debt. This burden, especially for young people, should be recognised. Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans leads debate on risks of rising household debt”

Bishop of Gloucester – crucial to work with young people on internet and social media reforms

On 7th November 2017, the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Best, ‘That this House takes note of the Report from the Communications Committee, Growing up with the internet.’ The Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, spoke in the debate, which was also reported in the Telegraph newspaper.

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am very grateful to the Select Committee for this report, and I agree with so much that has been said already. So many young people today source their identities from social media and internet advertising, which has resulted in low self-esteem and poor mental health. Over the last 18 months or so, I have been spearheading a campaign called Liedentity, which is focused around body image and challenging the lie that our value comes from our physical appearance. Continue reading “Bishop of Gloucester – crucial to work with young people on internet and social media reforms”

Bishop of Chelmsford says digital world needs children’s best interests at heart

On 7th November 2017, the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Best, ‘That this House takes note of the Report from the Communications Committee, Growing up with the internet.’ The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, who serves on the Communications Committee, spoke in the debate. His speech is below, and was also reported in the Telegraph and Mail newspapers.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, it is a great joy to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. I support the amendments she is pioneering through the House. They are extremely important. It is also a great honour, and a great education, to serve on the Select ​Committee on Communications. As other members of it have said, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Best, for the admirable and skilful way he led us through this. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, as our new chair.

So much in this report is critical to the sort of world we want to live in, the well-being of our nation, our public life and particularly our children. In his opening speech the noble Lord, Lord Best, outlined disturbingly well the challenges and dangers. Although I welcome the initial responses we have heard from the Government, much more still needs to be done to join all this up and make sure the needs of the child are put at the centre. Among the many important recommendations we offer, I draw attention to just two, because they are important in themselves and illustrate the larger, central point of our report—that government must take up the challenge to ensure that all those who work in the digital world work together to support the needs of children in an integrated and overarching response. Continue reading “Bishop of Chelmsford says digital world needs children’s best interests at heart”

Bishop of Oxford speaks in debate on strengthening families

On 2nd November 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Farmer, “That this House takes note of A Manifesto to Strengthen Families, published on 6 September.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I warmly welcome the report and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, and others involved. I find myself liking it more each time I read it. Its very modesty is its virtue, for a small number of strategic changes can make an immense difference. I speak from a background of nine years as a vicar in outer estate parishes in Halifax, in very poor communities, and seven years before my previous appointment as Bishop of Sheffield serving again some of the most impoverished regions in the country. Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford speaks in debate on strengthening families”