On 2nd June 2020 Baroness Sherlock asked Her Majesty’s Government “What steps they are taking to remove the five week wait for Universal Credit payments”. The Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, asked a follow up question, focusing on an increase in universal credit.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, the problems of the five-week wait have already been highlighted by other noble friends, and we should not underestimate their seriousness, but perhaps I may draw attention to some other temporary changes in universal credit. There has been an increase of £20 per week, which Ministers have stressed is a temporary, emergency measure, but the IPPR has calculated that if this had been in place since 2015, the UK would have entered this crisis with a pretty staggering 500,000 fewer people in poverty. Do Her Majesty’s Government plan to make this increase in universal credit a permanent feature, particularly as it would be such a help to children?
On 28th May 2020 the Bishop of Bristol, Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, received written answers to three questions asked on modern day slavery:
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: HL4177 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what long-term support services they plan to provide to survivors of trafficking to protect them from being re-trafficked and to ensure that they are supported when the COVID-19 lockdown ends.
The Lord Bishop of Bristol: HL4178 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to ensure that the level of subsistence support given to victims of modern slavery during the COVID-19 pandemic is sufficient to meet essential needs.
On 26th May 2020 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer to two questions asked on Free School Meals Voucher Schemes.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL4324 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they can take to encourage all food shops to accept food vouchers.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL4323 To ask Her Majesty’s Government (1) what assurances they have sought from Edenred that the food voucher scheme will work for all those who require them; (2) what plans they have to provide emergency aid to those who are unable to benefit from the scheme; and (3) what plans they have to seek financial compensation from Edenred.
On 21st May 2020, Lord Cormack asked the Government “what steps they are taking to support (1) museums, (2) galleries, and (3) historic buildings open to the public, affected by the restrictions in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:
Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Church of England alone has 16,000 church buildings, over 12,000 of which are listed. We are at the bedrock of our communities and thus can be at the heart of recovery. I therefore make three points. First, we are rich in assets, but the pandemic means that income is plummeting, and budgets were already tight. I therefore urge the Government at least to remove VAT on repairs to historic buildings.
Secondly, government often brackets us with the hospitality industry. Are we hospitable? I hope so. Are we historic? Yes. Does such categorisation meet our distinct needs? No.
Thirdly, the Church encompasses buildings and people. Our impact on people will define us, so how we respond pastorally to the pandemic from our buildings will leave the deepest impression.
On 21st May 2020 Baroness Browning asked the Government “what steps they are taking to update the guidance given to hospitals about ensuring the safety of patients who do not have Covid-19 who require life-saving emergency treatment.” The Bishop of London, Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of London: The report recently published by the Institute for Public Policy Research, Care Fit for Carers, found that half our healthcare workers have said that their mental health has deteriorated since the Covid-19 crisis began. What supplementary provision is being put in place to deal with the mental health needs of NHS staff?
On 20th May 2020 a Government statement was given in the virtual House of Lords regarding care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, we know how crucial the social care sector is, and the huge challenges it faced even before Covid-19, with 120,000 care assistant vacancies. Can the Minister therefore respond to the excellent suggestion from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury that we establish a royal commission on social care, not to blame but to learn, so that we have the right information to make the right decisions and provide the right services for these most vulnerable people?
On 20th May 2020, Lord Watson of Invergowrie asked the Government “what action they are taking to publish scientific evidence which (1) ensures the re-opening schools on 1 June will be safe for pupils, staff and parents, and (2) includes the impact on the (a) national, and (b) regional, reproduction rates (R number) of COVID-19“. The Bishop of Winchester, Rt Revd Tim Dakin, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, as with many schools, Church of England schools have remained open during the lockdown for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Our teachers are working extremely hard to provide educational and pastoral support to our students at this time of unprecedented challenge. Can the Minister confirm whether school leaders will be granted the discretion to reopen at a pace dictated by their local circumstances and context, considering the significant mental, spiritual, physical and social impact that the current situation is having on children, especially those from the most disadvantaged and vulnerable families?
On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question on church service attendance, from Alexander Stafford MP.
Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley):47487 To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what is the average church attendance each week in (a) Rother Valley Constituency, (b) Yorkshire, and (c) England in each year of the last five years.
Andrew Selous: The most recent survey of church attendance was published in 2018, and the table below contains figures aggregated from 2014-18 using average weekly attendance figures at all age services. These figures are collected each year during four weeks in October.
On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question on the reopening of churches, from Tracey Crouch MP.
Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford): 902801 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Church of England has made of the potential effect on public health of reopening churches.
Andrew Selous: The House of Bishops meets regularly to review its own guidance to clergy in light of Government and public health advice.
On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions, from Rachael Maskell MP and Barry Sheerman MP on the reopening of churches for baptisms, weddings and funerals:
Rachael Maskell (York Central):902797 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the Commissioners’ timetable is for enabling churches to reopen safely for funeral services after the covid-19 lockdown.
Andrew Selous: The Church Commissioners do not have responsibility for setting a timetable for the reopening of church buildings for funeral services.
Current guidance from the House of Bishops is not to conduct funeral services in church buildings because of widely expressed concerns about parishes having capacity to conduct such funerals safely, including being able to clean churches thoroughly between services to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. This is guidance, not instruction.