Bishop of Newcastle asks Government about help for ‘universal credit guinea pigs’ in poverty

On 3rd October 2019 Lord McNicol of West Kilbride asked the Government “what steps they have taken to reduce inequality in the United Kingdom.” The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a further question about people in poverty as a result of early pilots of universal credit. 

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, Newcastle was one of the pilot areas for the rollout of universal credit. It also has one of the largest food banks in the United Kingdom. I have warmly welcomed the changes to universal credit that have ameliorated some of the terrible things that happened in the beginning. However, is anything being done to help those people who were the guinea pigs, who were plunged into poverty and have not managed to come out of it? I would be grateful to know whether anything is being done. Continue reading “Bishop of Newcastle asks Government about help for ‘universal credit guinea pigs’ in poverty”

Bishop of Newcastle welcomes legal aid decision for unaccompanied and separated children of immigrants

newcastle230119bOn 1st October 2019 Lord Keen of Elie moved a draft order for approval: the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (Legal Aid for Separated Children) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019. The motion was agreed by the House, and the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, contributed to the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of the Children’s Society. I want to share my delight in the work of the Children’s Society and other children’s charities in helping to bring us to this point.

I warmly welcome the draft order amending the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 to bring immigration matters for unaccompanied and separated children within the scope of legal aid. That is a wonderful thing. Without this amendment, children outside their country of origin who are separated from their parent or care giver are at significant risk. The reinstatement of legal aid for separated children will be transformative for some of the most vulnerable children in our country.

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Bishop of Newcastle asks about vulnerable women released from prison

newcastle230119bOn 16th July 2019 the Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford repeated a Government statement about domestic abuse. The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I crave the forbearance of the House. I have two questions; one of my own and one from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who, due to the adjournment, has had to leave. My question relates to the needs of very vulnerable people, mainly women, on release from prison.

During my visits to our local women’s prison, I have learned that a higher proportion of women in prison than is the case in the general population come from violent and abusive relationships. It is critical that such women and other vulnerable people who have been abused are released into a safe, secure place with secure accommodation. Is the Minister aware that on occasion, due to things such as poor communication between the probation service in prison and the probation service outside prison, things go wrong and, tragically, a woman is released into danger.

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Bishops propose gambling amendment to Northern Ireland Bill

newcastle230119bOn 15th July 2019 the Bishop of Newcastle moved an amendment on behalf of the Bishop of St Albans, to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill: “(f) delivering regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom in regard to gambling”. The amendment was accepted by Government and agreed by the House without a vote.

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans has been unavoidably detained in his diocese, so has asked me to speak to his amendment. This is a probing amendment attempting to address an issue that causes regulatory anomalies, in that Northern Ireland does not have the same standards for gambling as Great Britain. This amendment is an opportunity for the Government to enable greater harmony in gambling regulation and legislation. The existing lack of alignment has appeared piecemeal in nature since the Northern Ireland Act 1998, and has led to confusing quirks. For brevity’s sake, I will quickly outline the differences the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans has identified as being of difficulty to the people of Northern Ireland, who do not have a well-regulated gambling industry with safeguards for all.

Northern Ireland does not use the Gambling Act 2005. Instead, it relies on the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements (Northern Ireland) Order 1985. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans has suggested that this outmoded basis for a modern gambling industry has led to a lack of safeguards. As the Department for Communities writes on its website, one in 50 Northern Irish adults has a gambling-related problem, which is,

“three times higher than in GB”.

Continue reading “Bishops propose gambling amendment to Northern Ireland Bill”

Bishop of Newcastle asks Government to help small charities involved in probation services

On 5th June  2019 the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a question she had tabled, on the national probation service. The answer, her follow-up, and those of other Members are reproduced below:

Probation: Voluntary Sector

newcastle230119bThe Lord Bishop of Newcastle: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the voluntary sector can contribute to an effective national probation service.

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con): My Lords, voluntary organisations play an important role in helping offenders turn their lives around. We are determined to strengthen this role. In May, the Government set out our plans for future probation arrangements, including that the National Probation Service will directly commission specialist and voluntary sector organisations to deliver rehabilitation services. We are engaging closely with voluntary sector providers to ensure that our arrangements maximise their potential engagement.

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer and welcome the proposal in the Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence consultation, which promises a clearer role for the voluntary sector. My concern, however, is that the consultation proposes ongoing mini-competitions and a mixed market for services. Can the Minister tell us how the Government will ensure that smaller charities are helped to spend less time competing for contracts and more time serving the community?

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Bishop of Newcastle asks Government about mental health support for children in alternative provision

On Wednesday 27th March 2019 Lord Storey asked the Government “what plans they have to ensure that all alternative education providers are providing a quality education.” The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a follow up question:

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The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I am grateful for the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Storey, and for the Minister’s answers to previous questions. At the Aspire Academy in Hull, an alternative provision academy that forms part of the Sentamu Academy Learning Trust, a unique multi-professional team that includes a clinical psychologist, a psychotherapist, speech and language therapists and educational psychologists is in place to ensure that students’ mental health and special educational needs are met. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that mental health care and special needs provision are part of what it means for alternative provision providers to offer a quality education?

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Bishop of Newcastle – abuse and threats toward MPs unacceptable and risk to democracy

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, following the Prime Minister’s Statement in the other place this afternoon, it is clear that we remain in a place of deep uncertainty. We are still asked to note the two dates of 12 April and 22 May, signifying that there are at least two, probably more, very different directions we might still take as a country.

I shall not focus on the choices before us, but I note that, whether by intention or default, we will make a choice—a choice will be made—and, beyond that choice, we have to live together. We are experiencing a time of extraordinary turbulence and toxicity in our political life, and it is how we navigate and respond to that turbulence and toxicity now and in future that I shall address in the remainder of the time available to me this afternoon.

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