Bishop of Exeter condemns benefit change that will "push 200,000 children into poverty”
The Bishop of Exeter has signed an open letter criticising government plans to change the benefits system, describing the "deeply disproportionate" effect the change will have on children.
Rt Rev Michael Langrish is one of 43 bishops to sign the letter to The Sunday Telegraph which has been publicly backed by The Archbishop of Canterbury.
The letter from the Church of England bishops called on politicians to protect children and families whom they said were being hit hard by cuts.
In it they state that the planned Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill “will have a deeply disproportionate impact on families with children, pushing 200,000 children into poverty”. Read the full letter below.
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The Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill will be debated in the House of Lords next week.
In January the Bishop attacked the government's changes to child benefit for penalising families where only one parent works.
He said the change introduced "significant" unfairness into the tax system. He said those who said that stay at home parents should go out to work had a "deeply misguided view" as most families where one parent stays at home do so out of necessity, rather than choice, because they have a disabled child or relative, or a child under five.
The letter from 43 bishops to The Sunday Telegraph:
'SIR – Next week, members of the House of Lords will debate the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill.
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.
These are children and families from all walks of life. The Children’s Society calculates that a single parent with two children, working on an average wage as a nurse would lose £424 a year by 2015. A couple with three children and one earner, on an average wage as a corporal in the British Army, would lose £552 a year by 2015.
However, 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. Only 3 per cent will come from the wealthiest third.
If prices rise faster than expected, children and families will no longer have any protection against this. This transfers the risk of high inflation rates from the Treasury to children and families, which is unacceptable.
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.'
Other bishops to sign the letter included Rt Rev Trevor Willmott, Bishop of Dover, Rt Rev Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro and Rt Rev Mike Hill, Bishop of Bristol.
In 2010 Bishop of Exeter helped secure a resounding defeat of the Government in the Lords on plans that churches claimed would restrict their ability to deny jobs to gay people and transsexuals.
The Rt Revd Michael Langrish, who chairs the Churches Legislation Advisory Service, was one of eight of the House’s 26 bishops to oppose the Government in all three votes.
Bishop Michael Langrish announced his retirement earlier this year stating that he will take his last service in Exeter Cathedral on June 29.