Bishop of Peterborough raises concerns about changes to bereavement benefits for parents of children


On 6th April 2017 Baroness Altmann asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether they will reconsider changes to bereavement benefits for parents with dependent children.” The Bishop of Peterborough, Rt Revd Donald Allister, asked a follow up question. The Bishop had been amongst the signatories of a letter from all sides of the House calling on the Government to reconsider its proposals.

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, I too signed the letter to the Secretary of State. I fully accept that the system needed reform, but those of us who spend a lot of time looking after people in bereavement know that a widowed parent may sometimes have to spend several years giving considerable extra time, attention and care to the children. In practice, that may necessitate working only part-time for a number of years while children are still at home. Previously in this House there was an assurance that income-related benefits would be there to support such parents, but under universal credit that is not so simple. Can the Minister reassure us that bereaved parents will not be subject to the in-work conditionality requirements that apply under universal credit? Continue reading

Bishop of St Albans asks Government about future of Motability


stalbans190117On the 30th March 2017 Baroness Thomas of Winchester asked the Government ‘what steps they are taking to support independent living for disabled people of working age’. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a further question relating to the Motability scheme.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the Motability scheme is a crucial element for getting people back into work, yet about 50,000 people have lost out on it. What is particularly worrying is that the vast majority of appeals are upheld, by which time those concerned have lost the vehicle and then have to get it again. It is costing a lot of time and money. Would Her Majesty’s Government consider having a scheme whereby people do not lose the vehicle until the end of the appeal process? This would make much more sense where the appeal is upheld. Continue reading

Bishop of Oxford asks Government about link between benefit delays and food bank use


On 9th March 2017 Labour Peer Baroness Sherlock asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the impact on claimants of the time taken between applying for Universal Credit and receiving payments.” The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked a follow up question.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, in the last three months I have visited a large number of food banks across the diocese of Oxford in seemingly affluent communities, building on my experience of food banks in the diocese of Sheffield. All have underlined to me that the most common reason why people access food banks is delay in accessing welfare payments. Continue reading

Bishop of St Albans on importance of welfare system that leaves no one hungry


On 21st December 2016 Lord Farmer led a short debate in the Lords, to ask Her Majesty’s Government “what progress they are making in rolling out Universal Credit, and what assessment they have made of its impact”. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, took part in the debate:

Bishop of St AlbansThe Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, for this important debate. On behalf of these Benches, I take the opportunity to thank the Minister for his very considerable contribution, drive and service to this House, and wish him well as he leaves the Front Bench.

I think it is true to say that very few in this House disagree with the stated aims of universal credit—to simplify the benefits system and ensure that work always pays. However, I also suspect that there are quite a few of us in this House and, indeed, on these Benches, who fear that on occasion Her Majesty’s Government may have lost sight of that aim. Indeed, it seems that successive cuts to the welfare budget have been prioritised as an easy way of balancing the Government’s finances. Continue reading

Bishop of Newcastle calls for substantial review of use of benefit sanctions


Newcastle 2On 30th November 2016 Baroness Lister of Burtersett asked Her Majesty’s Government: “whether, in the light of the public debate around the film “I, Daniel Blake”, they plan to set up a review of the treatment of claimants in the social security system.” The Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, given that the National Audit Office has today said that there is limited evidence that benefit sanctions work but rather that they result in “hardship, hunger and depression”, can the Minister update the House as to whether Her Majesty’s Government will now commit to a substantial review of the use and implementation of sanctions?”

Continue reading

Bishop of Portsmouth responds to Chancellor’s Autumn Statement


portsmouth241016On 29th November 2016, Lord Young of Cookham moved that the House take note of the economy in the light of the Autumn Statement. The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth My Lords, after nearly three years in this House, and having had the opportunity to speak in most of the debates responding to the Budget and Autumn Statements, it is not difficult to note the tendency for some contributors to applaud proposals they consider welcome; for others to criticise proposals they consider to have sectional interest or bias; and to have the expectation—or at least the hope—conveyed that the Chancellor and the Government will, and can, do even more when they are praised for welcome initiatives. I want to do a little of that this afternoon, though recognising the restrictions the Chancellor faces. I invite the Minister, and through him the Government, to reflect on what they ought to do—I introduce a moral note in using that phrase—to repair the fractures of trust, address growing injustices that are perceived as more hurtful than inequalities, and create not just a flourishing economy but a nation where people believe there is more that unites us than divides us. Indeed, my question to the Minister is whether the Government can better articulate their rationale and approach in the important area of inequality and injustice. Continue reading