Brighton and Hove's bishop opposes welfare reforms

Posted On 21 Nov 2011 at 3:17 am

The Church of England bishop responsible for Brighton and Hove has signed an open letter criticising the coalition government’s welfare reforms.

The Bishop of Chichester, the Right Reverend John Hind, 66, added his name to a letter published yesterday (Sunday 20 November) in The Observer newspaper.

The bishop, 66, who is due to retire next April, was among 18 bishops to oppose a proposed cap on benefits which would limit claims to a £500 maximum.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition hopes to save £7 billion from its welfare budget.

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The reforms are due to be discussed in the House of Lords today (Monday 21 November) when peers debate amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill.

The letter said: “The introduction of a cap on benefits, as suggested in the Welfare Reform Bill, could push some of the most vulnerable children in the country into severe poverty.

“While 70,000 adults are likely to be affected by the cap, the Children’s Society has found that it is going to cut support for an estimated 210,000 children, leaving as many as 80,000 homeless.

“The Church of England has a commitment and moral obligation to speak up for those who have no voice.

“As such, we feel compelled to speak for children who might be faced with severe poverty and potentially homelessness as a result of the choices or circumstances of their parents.

“Such an impact is profoundly unjust.

“We are urging the government to consider some of the options offered by the Children’s Society before the bill is passed into legislation, such as removing child benefit from household income for the purposes of calculating the level of the cap and calculating the level of the cap based on earnings of families with children, rather than all households.

“The government could also consider removing certain vulnerable groups from the cap and the introduction of a significant ‘grace period’ of exemption from the cap for households which have recently left employment.”

The letter has received the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York.

The archbishops and bishop are backing a series of amendments to the Welfare Reform Bill which have been tabled by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Right Reverend John Packer.

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