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”
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”
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”
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”
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”
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.
Continue reading “Bishop of Durham challenges Government on Universal Credit pilots and two-child limit”
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.
Continue reading “Bishop of Chelmsford asks Government about help for vulnerable people in debt due to benefit fraud”
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.
Continue reading “Bishop of Chichester calls for “unprincipled and harmful” two-child limit benefits policy to be scrapped”