Exeter and Truro bishops speak out on welfare Bill
Forty-three Church of England bishops have written an open letter, published in today's Sunday Telegraph, which criticises a proposed Bill on benefit increases. The signatories include Michael Langrish, the Bishop of Exeter and Tim Thornton, the Bishop of Truro.
Writing about the proposed Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill, to be debated in the Lords next week, the bishops say:
"The Bill will mean that for each of the next three years, most financial support for families will increase by no more than 1 per cent, regardless of how much prices rise.
This is a change that will have a deeply disproportionate impact on families with children, pushing 200,000 children into poverty. A third of all households will be affected by the Bill, but nearly nine out of 10 families with children will be hit."
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The bishops' letter provides examples of a nurse with two children, as a single parent, who would lose £424 a year by 2015 and an Army corporal with three children, who would lose £552 per year. They emphasise that "...the change will hit the poorest the hardest. About 60 per cent of the savings from the uprating cap will come from the poorest third of households."
The letter concludes:
"Children and families are already being hit hard by cuts to support, including those to tax credits, maternity benefits, and help with housing costs. They cannot afford this further hardship penalty. We are calling on the House of Lords to take action to protect children from the impact of this Bill."
The letter is backed by the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, Rev Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. Rev Welby said "Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from the effects of this Bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty."
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said "In difficult economic times we've protected the incomes of pensioners and disabled people, and most working age benefits will continue to increase 1%. This was a tough decision but it's one that will help keep the welfare bill sustainable in the longer term."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper commented "They should just have the benefits go forward linked to inflation this year. You could do it by paying for it by restricting pensions tax relief on the very highest earners. That would be a fair way to help everybody."