Bishop of Durham speaks on the effects of child poverty

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.”

Continue reading “Bishop of Durham speaks on the effects of child poverty”

Archbishop of York asks about effects of benefit cap and two child limit

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?

Continue reading “Archbishop of York asks about effects of benefit cap and two child limit”

Bishop of St Albans asks about greater support for food bank facilities

The Bishop of St Albans asked a question on help for food banks to freeze and store food, during a debate on health and malnutrition on 14th December 2022:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, food banks across my diocese are reporting a huge increase in need and a huge decrease in the amount of food being donated, simply because of the cost of living crisis. One of the things that makes a difference for food banks is having enough capacity to freeze food. There is an urgent need to see whether we can help them with freezers. Is there anything the Government can do to work with food banks to help them increase their capacity for storing food when it is spare so that is available at other times?

Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about greater support for food bank facilities”

Bishop of Chelmsford asks about extending access to free school meals

The Bishop of Chelmsford asked a question on extending free school meals to all children from families in receipt of universal credit on 13th December 2022, during a debate on free school meals funding and decision making power:

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, building on the question the noble Lord has just asked, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that out of 3.9 million children living in relative poverty in the UK, only 2.3 million receive free school meals. Can the Minister say whether the Government intend to extend free school meals to all children from families receiving universal credit?

Continue reading “Bishop of Chelmsford asks about extending access to free school meals”

Bishop of Gloucester responds to Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

The House of Lords debated the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 29th November 2022

The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, growth is good and necessary, and it is clear that money does not grow on those proverbial trees. We find ourselves in extremely challenging times, and it seems to me that some of the measures that are set out in the Autumn Statement are prudent and necessary to rebalance the budget. I thank the Government for their desire to focus on supporting the poorest households, which is right and just, including their decision to increase benefits in line with inflation. Yet I have a number of concerns. I want to use my time to focus on just two key issues: first, food and feeding people, and, secondly, the criminal justice system. I declare an interest both as a trustee of Feeding Britain and as Anglican Bishop for prisons in England and Wales.

Continue reading “Bishop of Gloucester responds to Chancellor’s Autumn Statement”

Bishop of St Albans speaks about the challenges facing pensioners and low-income workers

The Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate on financial stability on 3rd November 2022, focusing on the effects of the current financial situation and cost of living crisis on low-income workers and on pensioners:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, we are living in challenging times, with inflation rates at a 40-year high. Turbulence in the financial markets, with higher interest rates and larger mortgage payments, is adversely affecting people in all walks of society. With the wholesale price of energy and gas increasing due to Putin’s appalling and illegal invasion of Ukraine, it is vital that His Majesty’s Government do all they can to protect renters, those with mortgages and, of course, pensioners.

To put a human face to this debate, I thought it might be worth while just quoting one of a number of emails I have received from communities in my diocese this very week. One person emailed me on Friday: “In my role as chair of a food bank, we are having to make decisions around both frightening increases in demand and a growing decline in donations. This summer, we increased our warehouse capacity to handle food for somewhere around 500 food parcels a day. The problem is in-work poverty which is growing substantially. In the past few weeks, we have been approached by a hospital, a large business, schools and a local council about whether they can refer low-paid staff to us.” He went on: “Apparently, employers are not prepared to talk about the problem of in-work poverty, feeling ashamed. They would like to raise wages and want the best staff welfare but can’t because that would move them into a deficit budget.” The human reality of what we are facing is stark. Unfortunately, the mini-Budget of 23 September made a challenging financial climate much worse.

Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans speaks about the challenges facing pensioners and low-income workers”

Archbishop of York asks whether benefits will rise with inflation

The Archbishop of York asked a question about benefits rising with inflation on 19th October 2022, during a debate following a statement on the economy:

The Lord Archbishop of York: My Lords, I do not pretend to know the ins and outs of exactly where we find ourselves but I serve communities in the north. I think particularly of people I have met recently in Middlesbrough and Hull, where there were great hopes for levelling up. It now seems a distant dream. I recently visited a school where children go in the morning with an empty lunch box for them to fill up with food from the food bank in the playground at the end of the day. The budget for school meals has gone up by 2% yet food inflation has gone up by more than 10%. We need to make tough decisions—I am glad to hear that the triple lock will remain in place—but, on behalf of the communities where I serve, I must ask this: will benefits rise in line with inflation? If not, millions of people will be moved into poverty. Those who recently donated to food banks are now visiting them themselves.

Continue reading “Archbishop of York asks whether benefits will rise with inflation”

Bishop of Oxford asks about “compassionate conservatism”

On 18th October 2022, the Bishop of Oxford asked a question in response the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt’s, speech on the economy:

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, I welcome the new Chancellor, many of the measures announced yesterday, and the increased prospect of greater stability. I noticed that in his Statement yesterday he used the phrase “compassionate conservatism” several times. I wonder if the Minister would unpack that phrase a little, particularly on how the Chancellor will navigate to privilege the needs of the very poorest in society, perhaps especially in the outworking of the increase in benefits in line with price inflation, and in looking to see a decrease in the use of foodbanks in the coming years, which has escalated in major ways in the last decade.

Continue reading “Bishop of Oxford asks about “compassionate conservatism””

Bishop of Durham speaks on poverty and social security

On 10th October 2022, the Bishop of Durham spoke about poverty and social security during a debate on the government’s economic growth plan:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I congratulate my friend of more than 40 years, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham, on his valedictory speech. I thank him for his contributions to this House, particularly as our convenor, and pray God’s blessing for his future endeavours. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Gohir, on her excellent maiden speech.

In Luke, chapter 16, Jesus tells of a rich man who

“lived in luxury every day”,

while a beggar named Lazarus lay longing to eat what fell from his table. Sat at the rich man’s gate, Lazarus was in plain sight, yet he was invisible to the rich man—a man blind to suffering and the needs of Lazarus.

The Trussell Trust has revealed devastating statistics regarding those in poverty. In recent months, its food banks have provided 50% more parcels. Of those on universal credit, 2 million have skipped meals to meet other essential costs. These statistics continue to rise; poverty is in plain sight. Yet a policy of trickle-down economics renders those in poverty invisible. Like Lazarus waiting to eat what fell from the rich man’s table, this policy does not address urgent needs. These people cannot wait for the benefits of this economic policy to trickle down; this is especially the case for children and young people. We all get only one childhood, which shapes the rest of our lives. Children do not have time to wait for the “pie” to grow; they need meaningful investment now. God does not “trickle down” his love for us; he pours it out extravagantly. Jesus’s priority was to lift up the poor, not wait for some small advance to trickle down.

Continue reading “Bishop of Durham speaks on poverty and social security”

Bishop of Durham asks about Social Security payments

The Bishop of Durham asked a question about rising poverty on 10th October 2022, during a debate on social security and inflation:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I take the Minister back again to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. This morning, the Legatum Institute made it very clear that the number of people in poverty will rise if the rates are not increased by the rate of inflation. Will the Minister acknowledge that that is simply the fact if the Government do not do that?

Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks about Social Security payments”
%d bloggers like this: