10 Mar 2013

Dozens of Church of England bishops, including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, have joined The Children’s Society to call for urgent steps to prevent hundreds of thousands of children being plunged into poverty.

The welfare benefit up-rating bill – currently before parliament – will limit the amount by which most key benefits and tax credits can rise each year to only 1%, regardless of how much prices increase. This is well below the rate of inflation predicted by the Treasury, and the government estimates this will push 200,000 more children into poverty.

We have joined forces with bishops in the House of Lords to table amendments which would remove support paid for children from the bill. Peers are set to debate these amendments when the bill reaches report stage in the Lords (on 19 March).

Backed by different faiths

A total of 43 bishops have signed an open letter calling on peers from all political parties to support the amendments. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have spoken out in support, and the moves have also been backed by leading individuals from the Roman Catholic and Methodist churches, the Baptist Union, the United Reform Church and the Evangelical Alliance.

Both working and non-working families receive support with the costs of raising children. The church and The Children’s Society are determined this support is not eroded.

The bishops’ letter raises particular concerns that the bill will disproportionately affect families with children. Nearly nine in ten households with children will be hit – including 19 in every 20 single-parent families. This compares to a third of households overall.

Poorest will pay the biggest price

The poorest families will pay the biggest price. A total of 60% of the resulting savings will come from the poorest third of households, compared to only 3% from the wealthiest.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: 'Millions of struggling families now face the double blow of rising costs and cuts to support. If this bill is passed as it stands, it will make life so much harder for 11.5 million children and their families.

'This hardship penalty punishes families from all walks of life, whether they are working or looking for work. But the poorest children will take the biggest hit. This is unjustifiable. The government must not balance the books on the backs of children.'

Rising costs 

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has supported the call to protect children from the worst impacts of the bill. He said: 'It is essential that we have a welfare system that responds to need and recognises the rising costs of food, fuel and housing. The current benefits system does that, by ensuring that the support struggling families receive rises with inflation.

'The bill will remove this 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.” 

Protect those in need

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said: 'In difficult times it is right that as a nation, committed to justice and fairness, we protect those that are most in need. You can judge how good a society is by how it treats the vulnerable.

'Even in tough economic times we have a duty and responsibility to care for those who are struggling. Short-term cuts to benefits and support structures will do nothing but harm our communities in the long-term.

'We need to ask, will these cuts leads to the flourishing of those who currently benefit from such funding?'

The proposed amendments would seek to remove child tax credit, child benefit and child additions within universal credit from the scope of the bill. The Children’s Society parliamentary briefing on the amendments can be found here.

For more information

Please call our media team on 020 7841 4423 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editors