THE Archbishop of Canterbury has challenged the Government over
its plans to limit benefit increases, saying that "children and
families" would "pay the price for high inflation".
The Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill, which would limit the
increase in most benefits and tax credits to one per cent over the
next three years, will be debated at Report Stage in the House of
Lords on Tuesday of next week (
News, 15 February,
11 January). The Children's Society says that the one per cent
limit is "well below the rate of inflation predicted by the
Treasury", and "will push 200,000 more children into poverty".
Archbishop Welby issued a statement on Mothering Sunday after a
letter, signed by 43 bishops, was published in
the Sunday Telegraph. It called on the House of Lords "to
take action to protect children from the impact of this Bill".
Archbishop Welby's statement said: "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. . .
"Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from
the effects of this Bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to
end child poverty."
The BBC reported on Sunday afternoon that "Government sources"
had expressed "surprise" at Archbishop Welby's comments. The Work
and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, told Sky News: "There is
nothing moral or fair about a system which I inherited that trapped
people in welfare dependency. . . Getting people back to work is
the way to end child poverty."
But the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, told Sky
News: "A very large proportion of people on benefits are in work. .
. So the argument that we need to keep benefits down in order to
incentivise people into work simply doesn't apply here."
The President of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, speaking
before the close of the party's Spring conference, on Sunday, said
that Archbishop Welby's intervention was "an immensely helpful one
in strengthening the Liberal Democrats' hand to fight for a fairer
deal for the least well-off".
See this Friday's Church Times for full coverage