THE predicament of children living in cold, damp homes is a
scandal, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said on Monday, after
a survey found that more than a quarter of the children who were
questioned thought that their home was too cold.
Dr Sentamu spoke out after the Children's Society published a
new report, Behind Cold Doors, based on a survey of 2000
children aged from ten to 17, and 468 families with dependent
More than four in ten (43 per cent) of the families surveyed
said that they were likely to cut back spending on food as a result
of heating bills.
The charity is calling on the Government to extend the Warm Home
Discount (a rebate on energy bills funded by energy companies) to
all families with children who are living below the poverty
The report was published on the same day as MPs voted to
establish a commission to investigate "the impact of the
Government's welfare reforms on the incidence on poverty".
Michael Meacher, the Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton,
warned: "We are seeing the return of absolute poverty, which has
not existed in this country since the Victorian age." Since 2010,
absolute poverty (household income of 60 per cent of the 2010/11
median wage) has increased by 1.4 million people, including 300,000
children: there is now a total of 2.6 million children in absolute
Mr Meacher highlighted the impact of benefits sanctions, which
were issued to 580,000 people in the eight months to June last
"Given that the penalties are out of all proportion to the
triviality of many of the infringements . . . the use of
sanctioning on this scale, with the result of utter destitution, is
- one struggles for words - brutalising and profoundly unjust."
MPs contributed detailed stories from their constituencies.
Jeremy LeFroy, the Conservative MP for Stafford, spoke in support
of the motion: "Evidence from my constituency certainly suggests
that an increasing number of people are finding it very difficult,
or impossible, to make ends meet."
He suggested that benefits sanctions had been applied "in a
rather arbitrary manner".
The Minister for the Department for Work and Pensions, Mike
Penning, argued: "In many ways, welfare reform can have a
beneficial effect on people."
MPs also discussed the regulation of payday loans. On the day of
the debate, Which? magazine alleged that payday lenders
were "acting unlawfully by charging excessive default fees", of £20
In an interview with The Times, the Bishop of
Manchester, the Rt Revd David Walker, compared payday loans to the
temptation in the Garden of Eden. "The charges and penalties lie in
a future far enough away to be overlooked, especially in the relief
of breaking out of the current mess."