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”
On 23rd July 2019 the Government Minister Baroness Buscombe repeated a government statement about Universal Credit. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked some follow-up questions:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for all she said and look back several months to how she involved us and engaged with a group of us in a range of helpful ways. The regulations that have been laid show evidence of the Government having listened. I am deeply grateful for the ongoing engagement with stakeholder groups. However, along with my noble friends who have already spoken, I wish to highlight that this House and the other place, not the stakeholder groups, have to scrutinise the regulations, so to land them on us at this point in a negative form seems quite hard to take, if I am being honest.
On 10th July 2019 the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions made a statement on universal credit fraud. The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, asked a question:
Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: I ask the Minister for a bit of clarification. I do not pretend to understand all the ins and outs of this, but I see a lot of suffering, which now seems to be added to by crime. On the one hand, it is good to hear that it is less than 1%, but that would be no consolation for me if I was one of those people who now has to pay back for the fraud perpetrated against me by someone else. I am sorry if I did not understand the answer. I suppose I am asking the Minister to explain what help those victims will get in the terrible situation they find themselves in.
On 27th June 2019 the House of Lords debated a motion from the Liberal Democrat Peer Baroness Janke, “That this House takes note of the impact of recent benefit changes on vulnerable people.” The Bishop of Chichester, Rt Revd Martin Warner, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Chichester: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, for her introduction to this important debate, which touches on a subject that is the responsibility of us all. We should acknowledge that there have been small though welcome attempts by the current Secretary of State to mitigate some of the injustices that have developed in the benefits system in recent years. But I urge that more radical remedial action is needed. In particular, urgent reconsideration is needed of the impact of the two-child limit—a policy which could eventually affect over 3 million children, pushing more than a million who are already in poverty into deeper material and emotional misery.
The introduction of the two-child limit represented a significant shift in social policy. It broke the long-standing principle, upheld by various Governments of all parties, that entitlement to benefits should be linked to need. In its place, no discernible alternative principle underlies the application of the two-child limit.
On 30th April 2019 Baroness Massey of Darwen asked the Government “what plans they have to develop a cross-departmental action plan to address the conclusions and recommendations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child’s assessment of the United Kingdom in 2016, in order to ensure that all public bodies act to protect and promote children’s rights.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, the UNCRC states that the best interests of the child must be paramount in all decision making and yet evidence that our Benches are collecting shows that the two-child limit policy is having a substantially negative impact on those families affected by it. In the light of the Government’s obligations under UNCRC, will the Minister undertake to commission independent research into the impact of the two-child limit policy on those families which are affected by it?
On 24th April 2019 the Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a question he had tabled on the impact of the two-child limit for Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit payments. The exchanges, and the follow-up questions from other Members, are below:
Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit: Two-child Limit
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what analysis they have made of the impact of the two-child limit on the per-child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit payments on (1) child poverty, and (2) child development, for children under five years old affected by the policy.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Buscombe) (Con): My Lords, the Government are committed to supporting child well-being, and keep the impact of all their policies under review. This policy ensures fairness between those supporting themselves solely through work and those receiving benefits. Isolating the effect of the many individual policies on the income and well-being of children and families is, of course, challenging. Child benefit continues to be paid for all children, as well as an additional amount for any disabled children. Continue reading “Bishop of Durham asks Government about impact of two-child limit on child development and poverty”