Bishop of Chelmsford asks about debt management process for universal credit recipients

The Bishop of Chelmsford asked a question on reform to debt management for universal credit recipients during a debate on food banks and the rise in poverty on 9th January 2023:

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, given the data published by the Trussell Trust in December which revealed that 57% of people referred to food banks who are in receipt of universal credit face government deductions from their or their partner’s benefits income, could the Minister outline what steps the Government will take to reform the debt management process for universal credit?

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Bishop of Durham asks about Help to Save scheme

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answer on 19th December 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the potential impact of expanding the Help to Save scheme to all Universal Credit claimants and broadening points of access to include credit unions and other providers of low-cost credit.

Lord Harlech (Con): Help to Save aims to support individuals to kickstart a regular, long-term savings habit and build a rainy-day savings fund by providing a generous government bonus on savings over four years.

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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?

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Bishop of Durham’s Bill to remove the two-child limit for universal credit passes to next stages

The Bishop of Durham tabled a motion for his Universal Credit (Removal of Two Child Limit) Bill to be discharged from the committee stage on 26th October 2022. No amendments had been tabled by other Members to the Bill, so it passed Committee Stage and proceeds to its final Lords stage, Third Reading:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: That the order of commitment be discharged.

My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Hansard

Bishop of Durham asks about debts and universal credit

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 5th September 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the effect of government debt deductions on Universal Credit recipients’ ability to afford essential items; and what steps they are taking to prevent debt deductions contributing to destitution as the cost of living increases.

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Queen’s Speech: Bishop of Durham speaks on the cost of living

On 17th May 2022, the House of Lords debated the Queen’s Speech. The Bishop of Durham spoke in the debate, regarding the cost of living and the two child limit on universal credit:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I declare my interests as chair of the National Society and co-chair of the Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households.

A key question for evaluating the legislative agenda laid out in the gracious Speech is: are we, as a nation, prioritising the holistic well-being of all our children? I welcome the forthcoming Schools Bill. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State’s approach in constructively working with us to enable churches to have confidence in moving towards a system where all schools can be in a strong academy trust, maintaining their own ethos. The whole system must provide an education not solely pursuing the ends of maths and literacy but enabling children to be the best people they can be and to contribute to transforming the schools in which we live.

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Bishop of Durham asks about social security and universal credit

The Bishop of Durham received the following written answers on 25th April 2022:

The Lord Bishop of Durham asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they applied the Family Test to the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2022.

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Skills and Post 16 Education Bill: Bishop of Leeds speaks in debate

On 24th March 2022, the House of Lords debated commons amendments to the Skills and Post 16 Education Bill. The Bishop of Leeds spoke on behalf of the Bishop of Durham regarding provision for universal credit claimants:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, this House carried an amendment in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham, who cannot be in his place today, concerning universal credit conditionality—this has been referred to several times—but it was not accepted when the Bill was considered in the other place.

If the Government are to achieve their levelling-up ambitions and enable individuals to secure better-paid employment with improved prospects, then it is essential to achieve greater integration of the support provided for skills development and training by the Department for Education and the Department for Work and Pensions.

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Bishop of St Albans speaks about universal credit

On 23rd March 2022, the House of Lords Grand Committee debated the Economic Affairs Committee Report on Universal Credit. The Bishop of St Albans made the following speech:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I first add my thanks to the Economics Affairs Committee for producing this excellent report. As is often the case with a Select Committee report, reading it is not only enlightening but deeply informative. I have learned a great deal from it, for which I am grateful.

I too pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, for his tenacity, such as when securing the intervention in the Chamber earlier. It was so interesting that the concerns were being raised from every Bench. I hope the Government Whips and others are listening to the profound unease coming from every quarter of the House; it is not going to go away. I have experience of working across two relatively well-off counties. I used to work in the Black Country, but nowadays I have responsibility for Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, which are fairly wealthy, by and large. The concerns coming out of parts of Watford, Stevenage and Bedford are uniform: we are facing a serious challenge.

I have to confess to noble Lords that some of the material in this report was new to me. I am ashamed to say that I had not realised, until reading it, that universal credit is being used by the Government as a vehicle to recover debt. I was glad to be able to raise that earlier although I do not think the Minister understood the point I was making, because we received no answer. This is deeply disconcerting, not only because it will not deliver what the Government want. Simply taking pennies off the poor at a time when Her Majesty’s Government have written off £16 billion in Covid business loans due to errors and fraud—which led to resignations from the Front Bench in our own House—is quite extraordinary and unrealistic.

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Response to the Budget from the Bishop of Birmingham


03/03/2021

Following the Budget speech, the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart, Convenor of the Bishops in the House of Lords, said:

“This is a time of great uncertainty, and while the Chancellor has rightly focussed on steps to get the economy moving, I’m concerned he has missed the chance to give certainty to those people and families who rely on Universal Credit, by not making the £20 uplift permanent.

“I’ll look at the details of the Budget closely for measures that will help the poorest and most vulnerable, especially access to sustainable jobs. The £19m for Domestic Abuse programmes is welcome as is support for schools to help get children back on the road of educational discovery. The lack of detail on social care is, however, a worry.

“The £300m additional funding for the Culture Recovery Fund is very welcome and will support the many small businesses and independent contractors our churches employ and support. I also note that the Levelling Up Fund prospectus specifically mentions cultural and heritage assets, including churches, and we look forward to churches and cathedrals particularly in areas of high deprivation taking part in this programme.”

Source: CofE website

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