Bishop of Durham calls for a child poverty commission

On 12th November 2020 a Government statement on supporting disadvantaged families, including measures to address school holiday hunger, was given in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Durham asked a question in response:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: I warmly welcome so much in the Statement and in the decisions made; I also associate myself with those who ask why it did not all happen a bit more quickly. None the less, this has exposed the underlying fundamental structural issues which mean that we are not tackling child poverty in the round and as a whole. What consideration have Her Majesty’s Government given to creating really long-term solutions by forming a child poverty commission, as proposed by faith leaders in their recent letter to the Prime Minister? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham calls for a child poverty commission”

Bishop of Durham asks about benefit increases to match coronavirus uplift in universal credit payments

On 12th November 2020 Lord Woolley of Woodford asked the Government “what plans they have to maintain the £20 a week increase in Universal Credit (1) for the duration of, and (2) after, the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Bishop of Durham asked a further question:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: Families in receipt of legacy benefits, such as employment and support allowance, did not benefit from the very welcome £20 a week uplift in benefits. These people are just as likely to be affected by the financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and include many disabled people. Will the Government extend the increase in benefits to include those in receipt of legacy benefits, as recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Keep the Lifeline campaign? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks about benefit increases to match coronavirus uplift in universal credit payments”

Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports amendment on pensioner poverty

On 27th October 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill in Committee. The Bishop of St Albans supported an amendment on reporting impacts on pensioner poverty:
Continue reading “Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports amendment on pensioner poverty”

Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill – Bishop of St Albans calls for temporary increase in universal credit to be made permanent

On 13th October 2020 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill at its Second Reading. The Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, I add my words of welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Field of Birkenhead, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stuart of Edgbaston, and look forward to their maiden speeches.

I welcome the Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill. Pension credits are vital for the welfare of low-income retirees and it is right that measures are taken to support them in this challenging time. However, there is certainly scope for going further.

Accusations relating to intergenerational fairness are not entirely unfounded. While I am for uprating the basic state pension, providing a guaranteed rise of 2.5% at a time when millions have lost income due to the pandemic, I realise that it will raise questions over whether this Government represent the entire country or just those who are older. Continue reading “Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits) Bill – Bishop of St Albans calls for temporary increase in universal credit to be made permanent”

Bishop of Durham asks Government about impact of two-child limit on poverty in working families

On 15th July 2020 Lord McNicol of West Kilbride asked the Government “what steps they are taking to reduce the number of children living in poverty in working households.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Durham [V]: My Lords, in the light of the Minister’s last answer about continual review, in April 2019 59% of families affected by the two-child limit were working, with many struggling to afford essentials. When the new statistics on the policy are released tomorrow, will Her Majesty’s Government finally agree to review and assess the evidence that the two-child limit negatively impacts children in working families and that lifting it is the most effective way to reduce the number of children living in poverty? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks Government about impact of two-child limit on poverty in working families”

Bishop of Durham asks Government about low earners, in work poverty and universal basic income

On 6th May 2020 the Archbishop of York, Most Revd John Sentamu, led a debate in the House of Lords on the motion that the Lords “do consider the case for increasing income equality and sustainability in the light of the recent health emergency.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, also spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby on her moving maiden speech. I am grateful for all she does to champion the voices of children.

I want to thank Archbishop Sentamu for his leadership in consistently speaking up for racial and social justice. He champions work among young people, notably through the Archbishop of York Youth Trust. He inspires others to do the same.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a dividing experience through its unequal financial impact. The lowest-earning 10% are seven times more likely than high earners to work in a sector which has shut down. Archbishop Sentamu ​champions the real living wage. In-work poverty is compounded by irregular working hours. Such unpredictability means that families cannot easily save to safeguard themselves from unexpected life events. Eighteen per cent of the north-east’s working population experience insecure work. Turn2us found that people on zero-hours contracts expect a £193 drop in monthly income. These workers often provide essential services such as cleaning and delivery, yet face great financial instability. Will Her Majesty’s Government promote Living Hours accreditation? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks Government about low earners, in work poverty and universal basic income”

Bishop of Durham: Covid-19 crisis has amplified child poverty, we should suspend benefit cap and two-child limit

On 30th April 2020 in a virtual sitting the House of Lords debated a Motion in the name of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the number of people who will be (1) living in poverty, or (2) unable to meet their basic needs, as a result of COVID-19; and what steps they are taking to support such people.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate:

 

The Lord Bishop of Durham:  My Lords, the Covid-19 crisis has amplified child poverty. The welcome measures that raised UC and increased LHA show that radical government action is possible, but they have highlighted two policies as unfair. The first is the two-child limit. Recent events demonstrate life’s unpredictability. It exposes the flawed view of how the two-child limit policy was set up. Children should not be penalised for changing circumstances. Up to 60,000 families may find themselves affected in the coming weeks. Next week, the Church of England and CPAG will publish a report exploring the policy’s impact on these families. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham: Covid-19 crisis has amplified child poverty, we should suspend benefit cap and two-child limit”

Bishop of Rochester responds to Chancellor’s Budget Statement

On 18th March 2020 the House of Lords debated the Budget Statement made the previous week by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Rochester:  My Lords, as many have already observed, this Budget comes in extraordinarily unusual circumstances, and in relation to the issues around Covid-19, subsequent to the Budget announcement, the Chancellor has brought forward a number of measures which have been largely well received, and no doubt others will need to follow. While voluntary action in our communities will form much of the day-to-day response to those who are the most vulnerable and potentially isolated across our nation, the sustaining of public services and of businesses is vital for both our social and economic well-being; other speakers have already begun to address some of those issues.​

Following the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury is always a risky business, and other noble Lords have already spoken with considerable knowledge of these matters, so I shall focus my remarks on one or two specific issues and areas which were already matters of concern, and where that concern is perhaps greater because of the circumstances in which we now find ourselves.

On children and young people, I hugely welcome the long-overdue extension of higher-rate housing benefit for care leavers until the age of 25, thus giving stability in their accommodation beyond their 22nd birthday. This is something that the Church of England organisation the Children’s Society and other charities have campaigned for over some time, and it is most welcome. Also welcome is the £2.5 million for research on family hubs. However, what is not in the provisions of the Budget or subsequent provisions is sufficient funding to address the urgent need for every child to achieve a good start in life, and that is becoming more urgent in the light of the current circumstances. Continue reading “Bishop of Rochester responds to Chancellor’s Budget Statement”

Bishop of Durham asks Government about plans to reduce child poverty

On 13th February 2020 the Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, received a written answer to a question on child poverty reduction plans:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: HL1354 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to reduce child poverty levels.

Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks Government about plans to reduce child poverty”

Bishop of Durham asks for rapid changes to universal credit to help most vulnerable

On 4th February 2020 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Baroness Stedman-Scott, repeated  a Government statement made in the House of Commons on the extension to the universal credit implementation date. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow-up question:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, can we honour the DWP staff for allowing the BBC in? Many of us look forward to seeing what comes out. They have been very brave; many departments do not do that. I understand that the Minister does listen but some of these things have now been going on since the system’s very inception. Yes, many people at food banks and people who talk locally say that the work coaches are doing a wonderful job. That is great, but it is the most vulnerable who are suffering. Could we please listen to their voice and make some changes very rapidly? Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks for rapid changes to universal credit to help most vulnerable”