The following letter has been published in Sunday’s Observer newspaper:
The introduction of a cap on benefits, as suggested in the Welfare Reform Bill, could push some of the most vulnerable children in the country into severe poverty. While 70,000 adults are likely to be affected by the cap, the Children’s Society has found that it is going to cut support for an estimated 210,000 children, leaving as many as 80,000 homeless. The Church of England has a commitment and moral obligation to speak up for those who have no voice. As such, we feel compelled to speak for children who might be faced with severe poverty and potentially homelessness, as a result of the choices or circumstances of their parents. Such an impact is profoundly unjust.
We are urging the government to consider some of the options offered by the Children’s Society before the bill is passed into legislation, such as removing child benefit from household income for the purposes of calculating the level of the cap and calculating the level of the cap based on earnings of families with children, rather than all households. The government could also consider removing certain vulnerable groups from the cap and the introduction of a significant “grace period” of exemption from the cap for households which have recently left employment.
The Bishops of Bath & Wells, Blackburn, Bristol, Chichester, Derby, Exeter, Gloucester, Guildford, Leicester, Lichfield, London, Manchester, Norwich, Oxford, Ripon and Leeds, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, Wakefield and Truro
In the accompanying news story, Archbishop Rowan Williams backs revolt against coalition’s welfare cuts it is reported that:
…Eighteen Church of England bishops, backed by Williams and the archbishop of York, John Sentamu, are demanding that ministers rewrite their flagship plan to impose a £500-a-week benefit cap on families.
In an open letter in Observer, they say the Church of England has a “moral obligation to speak up for those who have no voice”. Their message is that the cap could be “profoundly unjust” to the poorest children in society, especially those in larger families and those living in expensive major cities.
The high-profile intervention comes after the Church of England became embroiled in an embarrassing row over its attitude to anti-capitalist protests outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. One cleric resigned over plans to evict the protesters forcibly, arguing that the Church should have been more supportive of their cause.
The bishops are calling on ministers to back a series of amendments to the welfare reform bill – due to be debated in the House of Lords tomorrow – that have been tabled by the bishop of Leeds and Ripon, John Packer.
A spokesman at Lambeth Palace said Williams was fully behind the bishops’ initiative. “As a president of the Children’s Society the archbishop fully supports the proposed amendments to the welfare reform bill.”
Sentamu also threw his weight behind the changes. “I hope that the government will listen to the concerns being raised and ensure that children, especially the most vulnerable, are protected from cuts to family benefits.”
And the newspaper has published an editorial article in support: The welfare state: the social glue that binds us must be preserved.
Here’s the original analysis by the Children’s Society to the capping proposal: More than 200,000 children to be biggest “losers” of Benefit Cap.