A Government flagship bill which seeks to cap the benefits a family can receive, may be derailed by Church of England bishops.
The Bishops who sit in the House of Lords, are thought to hold the balance of power in the discussion over the Conservative and Lib-Dem plans to impose a £26,000-a-year cap on welfare payments made to families.
Although one poll has shown widespread public support for the cap – it has been roundly condemned by senior clergy and other church figures, who say that it will cause large scale and unnecessary hardship.
And today the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, John Packer will table an amendment to the proposed bill, which will be the rallying point for other peers keen to stop the reforms.
The Bishops will join forces with former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown, who is the president of UNICEF, Labour peers, and a number of rebel Lib Dem Lords, to halt the legislation.
The threat has seen key Conservative politicians criticising Churchmen for keeping families in a ‘benefits trap’ by refusing to countenance the Cuts which would see benefits limited to the average wage of £26,000 per year.
But others have pointed to numerous flaws in the plan, which may see families with children, who don’t have any other sources of income, forced to migrate to cheaper areas of the country because of soaring rental values.
And some commentators have pointed out that the bill doesn’t take into account that families with better than average incomes will still continue to receive benefits, leading to unequal distribution of resources.
Although the Government is promising ‘transitional arrangements’ to prevent immediate problems, the Bishops feel this isn’t enough, and are set to argue that child benefit should be excluded from the cap – a step ministers say would render it meaningless.
The row between politicians and priests has been expected since the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said last year that ‘no one voted’ for the Government’s welfare policies, and said that ministers were encouraging a ‘quiet resurgence of the seductive language of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor’.
Bishop Packer said: ‘There is a very real risk that these reforms will cause suffering to the most vulnerable in society. What we’re hoping to do is to lessen that suffering for children in families where parents are unemployed.’
January 23rd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Simon Cross