Welby and bishops rally over welfare proposals

10 March 2013


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

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