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Archbishop joins urgent child poverty call

Sunday 10th March 2013

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has joined dozens of bishops in calling on the government to prevent hundreds of thousands of children from plunging into poverty.

Planned measures currently before parliament will cap the increases of key benefits and tax credits at 1% - well below predicted rises in living costs. The government estimates this will push 200,000 more children into poverty.

The Children’s Society has joined forces with bishops in the Lords to table amendments that would remove support paid for children from the bill. Peers are set to debate these amendments when the bill reaches report stage in the Lords on 19th March.

If the Welfare Benefit Uprating Bill is passed, a total of 60% of the resulting savings will come from the poorest third of households, compared to only 3% from the wealthiest, according to the Children’s Society, who have analysed the government's impact assessment.

In a statement voicing his concern, the Archbishop said politicians are facing “a clear choice” over whether to protect children.

“The government estimates this measure alone will push 200,000 more children into poverty,” said Archbishop Justin. “By protecting children from the effects of this bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty.”

The Archbishop added: “The Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill will remove [existing] protection from rising costs of living for working and non-working families alike; families who are already facing a daily battle to make ends meet. These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the government.”

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has also voiced his support for the bishops' call. 

“We need to ensure that children, the most vulnerable, are protected from these changes which currently would have a negative effect on 9 out of 10 families with children,” said Archbishop John.

“I understand that 60% of savings from the up-rating cap would come from the poorest third of households – with only 3% from the wealthiest households. That cannot be right.”

In an open letter published in the Sunday Telegraph today, 43 bishops call on peers from all political parties to support the amendments. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have not signed the open letter due to convention. 

 

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s full statement of support:

“As a civilised society we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.

“It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing. The current benefits system does that, by ensuring that the support struggling families receive rises with inflation.

“The Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill will remove this protection from rising costs of living for working and non-working families alike; families who are already facing a daily battle to make ends meet. These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the government.

“The government estimates this measure alone will push 200,000 more children into poverty. Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from the effects of this bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty.”

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