Bishop of Gloucester asks about impact of benefit reforms and two-child limit on families with children

On 10th January 2019 the Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, asked a question she had tabled to Government on benefit reforms and the impact on children. She specifically raised the issue of the two-child limit. A Government announcement on that was made the following day. The response to the question and to the Bishop’s subsequent question and those of other Members, can be seen in full below:

Benefit Reforms

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of benefit reforms on families with children.

​The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Buscombe) (Con): My Lords, this Government support families. Our welfare system supports those who are vulnerable and helps people into work. These reforms are working, with 3.3 million more people in work and 300,000 fewer children in absolute poverty than in 2010, a record low. Once fully rolled out, universal credit will result in an extra 200,000 people moving into work and will empower people to work an extra 113 million hours a year to support their families.

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: I thank the Minister for her Answer and I am grateful for recent engagement with faith and other groups on this issue, but the Government’s own statistics show that child poverty is rising among families with more than two children, even when those families have an adult in work. One of the principal drivers of this increase is the Government’s two-child limit, which makes it harder for parents of more than two children to work their way out of poverty, contrary to the aims of universal credit. In light of this evidence, will the Government reconsider that two-child policy? Continue reading “Bishop of Gloucester asks about impact of benefit reforms and two-child limit on families with children”

Bishop of Chester asks Government about the family test

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On 9th May Lord Farmer asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the policies recommended in the Manifesto to Strengthen Families, published on 6 September 2017; and what steps they plan to take in response to those recommendations.” The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, prior to publication of the manifesto, the previous Prime Minister declared that a family test would be applied to all government policy. Would this not require not just a Cabinet-level overseer but for each department to have someone responsible for applying the family test? Does that exist? Continue reading “Bishop of Chester asks Government about the family test”

Bishop of Coventry asks about role of schools in helping disadvantaged families

On 22nd November 2017 Lord Lennie asked Her Majesty’s Government “what action they have taken to address the concerns raised in the Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation report published in November 2016.” The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, on my visits to primary schools in Coventry in Warwickshire, I am often struck by head teachers in poorer areas telling me that they cannot help their children without also helping the families, who often face very complex issues. The Minister referred to the opportunity areas. Can he confirm that there is a plan to involve parents and guardians in that work of uplift and that there will be help for head teachers in that task? Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry asks about role of schools in helping disadvantaged families”

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 Durham asks about impact of Universal Credit on families with children

On 19th October 2017 the Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, received a written answer to a question about families with children on Universal Credit:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of Universal Credit on the employment outcomes for families with children and other new claimants in full service areas. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks about impact of Universal Credit on families with children”

Financial Guidance and Claims Bill: Bishop of Newcastle supports amendment to help families struggling with debt

The Government’s Financial Guidance and Claims Bill was considered in Committee in the House of Lords on 19th July 2017. The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, supported an amendment to the Bill to enable families in financial difficulty to receive a breathing space for repayment of debts:

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I, too, rise to speak in support of Amendment 41. I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Children’s Society.

In the area covered by the Diocese of Newcastle, the Children’s Society data tell me that there are more than 42, 000 children living in poverty and that almost 18,000 children from almost 16,000 families are living with the blight of problem debt. Last year, I read a report in the New York Times on a large, randomised trial involving 21,000 people on the efficacy of various aid mechanisms to bring people out of poverty and debt. What emerged surprised the researchers. It emerged that one key mechanism is more effective than any other, and that mechanism is hope. Families that are stressed and trapped in poverty and debt can feel real hopelessness that becomes entirely self-fulfilling. Give people a reason to hope, and it can make an extraordinary and real difference. Continue reading “Financial Guidance and Claims Bill: Bishop of Newcastle supports amendment to help families struggling with debt”

Bishop of St Albans calls for better coordination to improve Troubled Families programme

St Albans 2On 12th September 2016 Baroness Massey of Darwen asked the Government “how they will respond to the unpublished report on the effectiveness of the Troubled Families programme.” The Lord Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow-up question.


Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, one of the successes of this programme, which I have seen in a number of places, has been to try to get proper co-ordination. With so many different silos addressing this and so many resources going to a limited number of families, one success has been the way that progress has been made by bringing real focus and integration. Can the Minister assure us that that lesson has been learned and that we will continue to see how we can get movement on this relatively small but very problematic and difficult group, and find the way forward? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans calls for better coordination to improve Troubled Families programme”