Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Durham supports amendments on child poverty

On 9th December 2015 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill in its second day of Committee. 

The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in support of a group of amendments to clause 4 of the Bill, concerned with Government reporting on the life chances of children. The amendments sought to require the Government to report on the situation of children in low-income households, not only workless households and educational attainment. The amendments were withdrawn after the debate.


 

Bp Durham June 2015 bThe Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendments 24, 25 and 26. I know that everyone in this House, and indeed in the other place, is committed to protecting those children in our society who are vulnerable to suffering the worst effects of poverty. Indeed, I know that there is a broad recognition across the House that some form of statutory reporting on the issues of child poverty and children’s life chances is an important tool in driving initiatives that will combat that poverty. The questions about what should be included in Clause 4 are questions of best practice, rather than questions of best intention. Continue reading “Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Durham supports amendments on child poverty”

Bishop of St Albans asks about negative impact on adoption figures of Welfare Bill proposals

On 8th December 2015 Baroness King of Bow asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the drop in the number of children being placed for adoption”. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith asked a follow up question on measures in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill:

Bishop of St AlbansThe Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, just last night in this Chamber, noble Lords discussed amendments to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill which sought to exclude kinship carers and adoptive parents from the two-child limit in tax credits. Given the worrying decline in the number of adoptions, this seems an eminently sensible proposal. If things go through as they are at the moment, this would act as a significant financial disincentive for some families to take on extra children as kinship carers or adoptive parents. This House was told last night that that is not being considered in the present Bill, but no reasons were given. Will the Minister explain why this very helpful suggestion is not being taken up? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks about negative impact on adoption figures of Welfare Bill proposals”

Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Portsmouth tables amendment about impact on families and faith communities of two-child limit

On Monday 7th December, the House of Lords debated the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill during its first day of Committee. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke to an amendment he had tabled to require Government to assess the impact of the proposed two-child limit for new claimants on families and faith communities. His speeches opening and closing the debate on his amendment are included below, along with an extract of the Minister’s reply. The full debate, including speeches by other Members, can be seen at: Parliament.uk

BishPortsspeechtaxcreditsThe Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I tabled Amendment 21 to highlight the impact of this measure on different faith communities who share our concerns with this part of the Bill in particular. Noble Lords who attended the special briefing we organised two weeks ago will have heard Chaya Spitz, chief executive of the Interlink Foundation, speak passionately about the implications for the Orthodox Jewish community that she represents and is a member of. For her community, larger families are the norm and the central pivot around which everything else revolves. There is a positive, faith-based imperative to have children, to create the next generation in service of God. There is also a commonly held conscientious objection to the use of artificial contraception, except in prescribed circumstances, and to abortion, except in rare circumstances. By limiting financial support to the first two children, this policy is making a judgment that touches on deeply personal and strongly held religious and cultural beliefs about the family, and that threatens the viability of whole faith communities.

Continue reading “Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Portsmouth tables amendment about impact on families and faith communities of two-child limit”

Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Portsmouth opposes two-child limit for new claimants

On Monday 7th December, the House of Lords debated the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill during its first day of Committee. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in support of a motion from Baroness Sherlock and Lord McKenzie opposing the question that clauses 11 and 12 (limiting child tax credits to the first two children) should stand part of the bill. His speech is included below, along with an extract of the Minister’s reply. The full debate, including speeches by other Members, can be seen at: Parliament.uk

BishPortsspeechtaxcreditsThe Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I express my strong concern about these clauses remaining part of the Bill. I offer three straightforward and, I hope, succinct comments: first, about the implications of these clauses; secondly, about the motivation of parents that is implied; and, thirdly, about where responsibility lies.

First, the Government place great emphasis on choice and personal responsibility for family size. I have to say that that assumes a remarkable assumption about the fail-safe effectiveness of contraception—or, if not, an apparent willingness for abortion to be appropriate as a sort of emergency contraception to keep family size to two children. I doubt the assumption, and would deeply regret driving people to seek termination on economic grounds. Is that really what the Government wish? Continue reading “Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Portsmouth opposes two-child limit for new claimants”

Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Portsmouth tables amendment on victims of domestic abuse and bereaved parents

On Monday 7th December, the House of Lords debated the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill during its first day of Committee. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke to amendments he had tabled to exempt bereaved parents and victims of domestic abuse from the proposed two-child limit for new claimants. His speech on his amendment is included below, along with an extract of the Minister’s reply. The full debate, including speeches by other Members, can be seen at: Parliament.uk 


BishPortsspeechtaxcreditsThe Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, I highlight two particularly vulnerable groups in my Amendments 5, 6, 13 and 14, groups that I believe should be exempted from this measure. These are bereaved parents and victims of domestic abuse. In focusing so heavily on promoting personal responsibility, there is always a danger with welfare reforms that we neglect our collective responsibility to look after those who fall on difficult times, people we will probably never meet but whom we support through our taxes in their time of need so that we, too, will be supported when we need help.

Continue reading “Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Portsmouth tables amendment on victims of domestic abuse and bereaved parents”

Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Portsmouth tables amendment on Kinship Carers


On Monday 7th December, the House of Lords debated the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill during its first day of Committee. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke to amendments he had tabled to exempt kinship carers from the proposed two-child limit for new claimants. His speeches opening and closing the debate on his amendment are included below, along with an extract of the Minister’s reply. The full debate, including speeches by other Members, can be seen at: Parliament.uk


BishPortsspeechtaxcreditsThe Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, my concerns about this measure, along with those of other faith groups and organisations, are set out in the briefing note that my colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham circulated to all Members of the House prior to the Second Reading debate. In that note we expressed our belief that children are a blessing and that anything that sends an implicit or explicit message that a child is unwanted or burdensome should be strongly resisted. Continue reading “Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Portsmouth tables amendment on Kinship Carers”

Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Durham raises child poverty concerns

On 17th November 2015 the House of Lords debated at Second Reading the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, raised concerns about the impact on child poverty of proposed changes, including the two-child limit. The Bishop of St Albans also spoke in the debate.


 

Durham171115The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I support many of the principles underlying this Bill: the importance of personal, as well as collective, responsibility; the value of decent work, not just financially, but for human dignity; the role of the welfare system in encouraging positive behaviours; the recognition that poverty is not simply about lack of income; and the desire for fairness for those who receive from and contribute to the system, including the vast majority of us who do both at different points in our lives. None of these is completely new, but the Government’s approach to welfare reform has certainly reinvigorated the debate about poverty, helping to challenge implicit assumptions and some very tired thinking. Governments naturally want to distinguish themselves, but in seeking to introduce a fresh perspective on old problems, there is always a danger of going too far or of throwing out the good with the bad. That is my concern about some of the measures being discussed today.

Continue reading “Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of Durham raises child poverty concerns”

Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of St Albans raises support for vulnerable adults

On 17th November 2015 the House of Lords debated at Second Reading the Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, raised concerns about potential impact on vulnerable adults, both in the proposals for supported housing and for those receiving the Employment Support Allowance. The Bishop of Durham also spoke in the debate.


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The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I will pick up on some of the themes that have been raised by some of my noble friends who have spoken today, particularly on the area of vulnerable adults and those who are disabled. I invite the Government to think about two issues in particular. The first relates to the clause in the Bill legislating for a mandatory 1% annual reduction in social housing rents over the next four years. I, like other noble Lords, understand that the Government have their reasons for introducing this mandatory reduction, not least the considerable savings on housing benefits that such a rate reduction would deliver. I welcome the discretionary power that the Secretary of State will have to waive the requirement for rent reductions. This will go some way to protecting those housing associations which find themselves financially exposed due to circumstances outside their control. Continue reading “Welfare Reform Bill – Bishop of St Albans raises support for vulnerable adults”

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