The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government why, when determining the length of time for which Bereavement Support Payments would be paid, they considered 18 months a suitable timeframe for bereavement support. [HL6803]
On 24th April 2017, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, received written answers to two questions on Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit:
The Lord Bishop of Durham:
(i) To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many families will be affected by the introduction of the two-child limit on Child Tax Credit and the child element of Universal Credit in (1) 2017–18, (2) 2018–19, and (3) 2019–20. [HL6344]
(ii) To ask Her Majesty’s Government what projections they have made of the effect of introducing the two-child limit on Child Tax Credits and the child element of Universal Credit on the number of children in poverty, according to the income-based measures used in the official Households Below Average Income statistics. [HL6345]
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?
On 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.
On 27th March 2017, two votes took place on a Statutory Instrument introducing changes to the regulations governing Personal Independence Payments. The Bishop of Winchester took part in both divisions.
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.
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:
The 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.