The following letter, expressing concern about the consequences of the two-child limit policy for children and families was signed by sixty bishops (including nineteen Lords Spiritual) and representatives from other denominations and faiths. It appeared in The Times newspaper on 6th April 2018.
The publication of the letter coincided with the release of a report from the End Child Poverty Coalition assessing the impact of the policy, which was introduced in April 2017. The accompanying press release from the Coalition can be accessed here, and the Church of England’s media notice is available here.
The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, published a blog on the Church of England’s website on the same day, the full text of which is also reproduced below.
Two-child limit on Universal Credit
Sir, Today the “two-child limit” policy, which restricts tax credit and universal credit to the first two children in a family, has been in place for a year. The policy is making it harder for parents to achieve a stable and resilient family life. By 2021, 640,000 families will have been affected. Most are low-earning working families, most have three children and some will have made decisions about family size when they were able to support children through earnings alone, but later claimed tax credits or universal credit after bereavement, redundancy, separation, disability, illness or simply low pay. Continue reading “Bishops highlight consequences of the two-child limit in letter to The Times and blog post”
On 20th March, a vote took place on a Regret Motion tabled by Labour’s Lord Bassam of Brighton to Regulations changing entitlement to free school meals. The Bishop of Portsmouth took part. His speech in the debate is here. Continue reading “Votes: Changes to Free School Meals Entitlements”
On 20th March 2018 the House of Lords debated the motion ‘that this House regrets Her Majesty’s Government bringing forward changes in entitlement to free school meals through the Free School Lunches and Milk, and School and Early Years Finance (Amendments Relating to Universal Credit) (England) Regulations 2018 which will undermine work incentives in Universal Credit and leave up to a million poor children unable to claim free school meals; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government not to implement the Regulations until a full poverty impact assessment has been completed and considered by both Houses, and not before six months has elapsed (SI 2018/148). The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, it normally gives me great pleasure to speak in your Lordships’ house, but this evening I speak with some sorrow. I am hoping that the proposals made by the Government—involving, I am sure, the Treasury, the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions—are perhaps the result of the complexity of those interlocking interests and have inadvertently left what surely cannot be intended. The consequences of this policy run counter to everything that the Government have said about the principle of universal credit, which I and many others have supported. If the consequences are unintended then I shall be delighted and relieved to hear the Minister say so.
Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth warns of cliff-edge consequences for poor families, of changes to free school meal rules”
On 14th March 2018, Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the effect on Universal Credit work incentives of the recently announced proposals for passporting family entitlement to free school meals.” The Lord Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, we have years of clear evidence that tackling child hunger improves outcomes at school and improves achievement and social mobility. What assessment have the Government made of the impact of these proposals on child hunger and on our investment in our children’s futures?
Continue reading “Bishop of Newcastle asks Government about proposals to tackle child hunger”
On 6th March 2018 the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, received an answer to three written questions on Child Tax Credits, following up written questions asked in January and February.
Continue reading “Bishop of Durham receives answers to further written questions on Child Tax Credits”
On 4th December 2017 the House of Lords debated the Chancellor’s 2017 Autumn Budget Statement. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate, focusing on the lack of news on social care and on defence, and calling on Government to take further action on Universal Credit:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, one of the duties in which I take particular pleasure is chairing the governors at Ripon College, Cuddesdon, just outside Oxford, a theological college at which men and women are prepared for ministry. It is known by those associated with it more colloquially as a vicar factory. Notices around the college remind the residents that, after night prayer or Compline, they are expected to abide by what is known as the great silence. It is not, I suspect, adhered to with the same severity as in years past. Indeed, one has a sense that the silence masks all kinds of feverish activity, all of it associated with theology, of course.
On 22nd November 2017 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a statement made by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on Universal Credit. The Bishop of Coventry, Rt Revd Christopher Cocksworth, responded to the statement:
The Lord Bishop of Coventry: My Lords, I share with the Minister and the House a bit of local information. We find ourselves in an interesting situation in Coventry, with rising employment and yet a 30% increase in usage among those in the city—mostly single males—among whom universal credit has been rolled out. Like others, I very much welcome the changes and I am sure they will help enormously but, at the same time, I still have reservations about whether they have gone far enough and address other issues that some of us on the ground have identified. Continue reading “Bishop of Coventry asks Government about funding for debt advice services”