The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the impact of the recent increase in inflation on the number of children in poverty; and what plans they have for protecting low income families against the rising cost of basic essentials.
On 24th January 2017 Baroness Lister of Burtersett asked the Government “why they have abolished the Child Poverty Unit which was sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education and HM Treasury.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I know the Minister will agree that no child chooses to live in poverty, so when a child is hungry or lives in poor housing, will the Minister and the Government recognise that these are our children, as a society, and that that means we must have good joined-up structures which tackle these issues? Does he also recognise that the abolition of the CPU does not hint at good joined-up structures?
On 20th December 2016, Baroness Corston moved “that the House take note of the Report from the Social Mobility Committee (Session 2015-16, HL Paper 120)”. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate, to welcome the report and highlight the continued importance of a focus on child poverty.
The Lord Bishop of Durham My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, for tabling this important debate and for her and her committee’s work, which has produced such a helpful and clear report. I also look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Corriegarth.
The findings of the report are of particular importance to those of us in the north-east. According to the Growing Up North project, 4% of young people leaving school in London go on to an apprenticeship whereas the figure is 11% in the north-east. The inequality in provision between academic and vocational routes compounds the inequalities between the north and south of England. Therefore, the current problems with the system are not only failing individual young people but, in some instances, they are failing particular communities. It is with the young people of my diocese and region in mind that I welcome the solutions offered in the report.
On 17th November 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Crossbench Peer Lord Bird, “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to address the root causes of child poverty across the United Kingdom”.The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, my thanks go to the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for tabling this important debate and for the challenging and spirited way in which he always makes his speeches, which not only entertain but very often get to the heart of many of the crucial issues. This debate is particularly timely because of the figures recently released by the End Child Poverty Coalition, which show that child poverty levels continue to rise steeply, reaching 47% in some areas. In his maiden speech the noble Lord, Lord Bird, spoke of the need to give those in poverty a hand up and not a handout. He focused on the importance of creating opportunities, rather than dependency. This of course has been one of the great themes of his life’s work. I believe that that is a crucial message.
On 8th November 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Kirkwood to regret the changes to the benefit cap introduced by the Government and taking effect that week. The Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, supported the motion:
Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope: That this House regrets that the Government have not, in advance of the entry into force of the Benefit Cap (Housing Benefit and Universal Credit) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/909), made additional support available to those individuals affected by the benefit cap to find work.
The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, we have heard a number of impressive figures and statistics this evening. It seems to me that the principle underlying all this is that you can save money with one hand but you will pay it out with another. According to End Child Poverty statistics released this month, we have 3.5 million children living in poverty in the United Kingdom in the 21st century. In some regions, up to 47% of children are living in poverty. In my own diocese, in the Bradford local authority area, 32.7% of children are living in poverty after housing costs. The national average is 29%. In Leeds Central, it is 41.8%. If children are living in housing and food poverty—as we know they are from food banks and all the other stuff we see on the ground in our cities, towns and rural areas—then we will end up paying out through the National Health Service and in other ways for the consequences of what children do not have at present.
On 14th July 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Bird, “That this House takes note of the case for tackling the causes of poverty in the United Kingdom”. The Bishop of Derby, Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, spoke in the debate and his remarks are below. The Bishop of St Albans’ speech in the same debate can be seen here.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Bird, for introducing this important issue of tackling the causes of poverty. We learn from the briefing notes that the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, makes it clear in her textbook that it is almost impossible to define poverty. That is part of the complexity with which we have to wrestle because, as poverty is relative, it is very hard to design appropriate responses.
In my trade, we have two phrases: we talk about the poor and about the poor in spirit. The word for spirit means power, and I want to look at to what extent to be poor and in poverty means to be lacking in power—the kind of power that allows you to feel good about yourself and to have security of work, security of a living place and security of contributing to society. How do we bless people with a sense of power over their lives, for themselves and those around them, and to make a contribution to society?
On 6th July 2016 the House of Lords continued to consider the Government’s Children and Social Work Bill in Committee. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, sponsored and moved an amendment on data collection on factors underlying child maltreatment. The amendment was withdrawn following debate. The Bishop said:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, in moving this amendment I should explain that I speak on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, who has done the bulk of the work on this amendment. She is unable to be present today and sends her apologies.
Amendment 99 would require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament within six months of Royal Assent on ways of implementing the World Health Organization’s recommendation in the European Report on Preventing Child Maltreatment regarding improved data collection for monitoring and evaluation. The recommendation points to the,
“urgent need for reliable and valid data”,
on, among other things, “socioeconomic factors”, reflecting the earlier statement in the report that:
“Child maltreatment is linked to variations in socioeconomic means”.