The Bishop of Durham spoke in a debate on vulnerable teenagers on 26th January 2023, emphasising the negative effects of child poverty on later life:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord McConnell; I associate myself with everything he said, particularly about adopting the recommendations. He also reminded us that this is no new problem. He talked about his experience in the 1980s; I could do the same from when I was doing youth work. You can also quote Greek writers and philosophers about the problems of young people in the era of the Greeks, so this is something we have always lived with.
I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Armstrong, for securing this debate. It is always lovely to share something with someone else from this part of the north-east of England. I congratulate Anne Longfield on the report, Hidden in Plain Sight. As the Commission on Young Lives’ report demonstrates, young people falling vulnerable to violence and exploitation and entering the criminal justice system is not an issue that is shrinking, nor one that could possibly be ignored.
The effects of this problem are widespread, impacting not only the lives and futures of the young people themselves but the prosperity and security of our whole country. Such an issue cannot be resolved through sticking plasters or short-term solutions; it is instead vital that we examine and address the root causes and respond with long-term solutions.
As the report states,
“it is impossible to overestimate how important poverty is as a driver for so many of the social problems ruining and holding back lives.”
The Archbishop of York asked a question on the effects of the benefit cap and two child limit on vulnerable families on 24th January 2023:
The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, it is encouraging to see that the Government are keeping a check on the numbers of people being affected by these policies, but I was not quite sure whether I heard that work is being done to measure the impact of the policies on families. I can say, and it gives me no joy to say it, that from where I serve in the north of England—I am thinking particularly of Middlesbrough and Hull—I see the disturbing impact of an increase in poverty, child poverty and families in very difficult situations, not least with the cost of living crisis on top of all this. My simple, genuine and heartfelt question is: how would you explain this to a mum expecting her third child, or a family with three or four children who have been pushed into benefits over the past couple of years? They do not understand why this is happening but they are suffering as a consequence of it. How do we explain to them the rightness of this policy?
The Bishop of Carlisle asked a question on the benefits of funded childcare schemes on 17th January 2023, during a debate on access to childcare for working families:
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, following the recommendation in a recent report published by the Work and Pensions Committee on universal credit and childcare costs, can the Minister tell us what assessment His Majesty’s Government have made of childcare funding schemes in Scotland and in some Scandinavian countries? Have they investigated whether their costs are offset by other benefits to society, such as increased economic activity, additional tax receipts and personal well-being?
The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 24th October 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government when they will publish the next version of the Processing children’s asylum claims guidance.
Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con): The Processing children’s asylum claims guidance is under review.
The current version of the guidance does not yet reflect changes under the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, where those came into force on 28 June 2022. Other guidance reflecting those changes made under the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, which are relevant to children’s asylum cases, are available on GOV.UK.
On 1oth October 2022, the House of Lords debated the government’s economic growth plan. The Bishop of Derby spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, it is a pleasure to join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, on her maiden speech, which was delivered with such authority and clarity on matters that are close to my heart as well. I look forward to working with her in the years ahead. It is also a real privilege to pay tribute to my right reverend friend who gave his final reflection from these Benches. I am indebted to him as he has been not only an excellent Convenor of the Lords Spiritual but someone whose example has greatly influenced my ministry over many years.
I declare an interest as vice-chair of the Children’s Society. This afternoon, I want to give voice to the unheard voices that it works with and advocates for, as we take note of the economy and the Government’s growth plan. Last month, the Children’s Society published the 2022 Good Childhood Report, which records that 85% of parents and carers, despite welcome packages of support, are worried about the increase in the cost of living as it affects their ability to care for their children.
On 2nd March 2022, the House of Lords debated the Nationality and Borders Bill in the second day of the report stage. The Bishop of Durham spoke on several amendments to the bill, including:
Amendment 35, which would prevent offshoring of asylum seekers
Amendments 40-45, moved by the Bishop of Durham on behalf of the Bishop of Gloucester, which relate to the standard of proof applied to vulnerable people seeking asylum
Amendments 48 & 49, which would promote more safe routes for asylum seekers and targets for resettlement
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, in rising to support Amendment 35 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, to which I have added my name, I declare my interests in relation to both RAMP and Reset and set out in the register. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, for the way she introduced this amendment, and I fully support all her points.
I set out my reasons for supporting this amendment in Committee. However, a significant concern for me now is that the Minister was not able to give assurance that children in families would be excluded from offshoring, nor that families would not be split up in the process. This is deeply concerning. I appreciate that the policy document of 25 February sets out that exemptions will depend on the country where people are being offshored and tat publicising exemptions will fuel the movement of the most vulnerable not subject to offshoring.
However, I would set out that, for children, onward movement to any country after an often traumatic journey to the UK, in addition to the trauma in their country of origin, is simply never in their best interests. All the concerns I set out in my Committee speech regarding the monitoring of the practice of offshoring processing centres are especially true for children.