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Lords back ‘beliefs’ in new Bill

08 November 2013

louise morse

At home: a resident of Pilgrim Gardens in Leicester, a 31-flat development owned by the Pilgrims' Friend Society, a Christian charity; the retire­ment complex won a HAPPI national building award for design and innovation

At home: a resident of Pilgrim Gardens in Leicester, a 31-flat development owned by the Pilgrims' Friend Society, a Christian charity; the reti...

PEERS rejected by almost three to one, last week, a proposal to place a duty on local authorities to promote the spiritual well-being of care recipients. Instead, they backed a government amendment to add the word "beliefs" to councils' duty to take into account an individual's "views, wishes and feelings".

At the Third Reading of the Care Bill on Tuesday of last week, Lord Hamilton of Epsom, a Conservative peer, pressed the Government to add "spiritual well-being" to the duty on councils to promote "physical and mental health and emotional well-being".

"The problem is that the provision as amended would continue to deny the role of spirituality for carers and those facing chronic illness," Lord Hamilton said.

Five other Peers spoke in support of the amendment. Lord Cormack, a Conservative, and President of the Prayer Book Society, suggested that it would "give a degree of solace to many".

Lady Emerton, a cross-bencher and retired nurse, said: "Spiritual care is not just about religious belief and practice. . . It is about hope and strength, trust, meaning, and purpose, belief and faith in self and others."

The Earl Howe, a health minister, moved the Government's amendment. "Having regard to someone's beliefs includes their spiritual beliefs; for example, ensuring access to an appropriate figure of religious authority during palliative care," he said. "My amendment quite deliberately does not refer specifically to 'spiritual' well-being. . . That is because we do not wish to exclude those who may not consider themselves to have 'spiritual' beliefs."

Lady Barker, a Liberal Democrat, who championed the amendment to include spiritual well-being at the Report stage of the Bill, said that she accepted the Government's amendment, which was "sufficiently wide to include spiritual beliefs".

During the Report Stage, her amendment was supported by the Rt Revd Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford, who said: "We also need to take into account the fact that we now live in a multifaith society, and for those of some religions in particular, it is very important that they have someone with religious authority in contact with them in the final stages of their life."

It was opposed by Lord Warner, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. He suggested that it would be "discriminating against humanists".

Lord Hamilton's amendment was lost by 271 votes to 96.

The Care Bill, which addresses the rights of carers and proposes a cap on care costs, now moves to the House of Commons.


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