Personal Independence Payments

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd April 2024

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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I have already said that this Green Paper is a conversation that we are starting to see how the costs are best targeted and how people are best supported. The noble Baroness will know that some claimants will have considerable extra costs relating to their disability—quite right too—and others will have fewer costs or minimal costs. That is why this Green Paper will look at whether there are ways in which we can improve how we support people in the right way and in a way that is fairer to taxpayers.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, yesterday I visited National Star, an FE college that serves young people with severe lifelong disabilities. Many of them are being subjected again and again to reassessment throughout their lives. That is not only traumatising but a complete waste of time and resources. What will the Government do to take this into consideration so that people with severe lifelong disabilities are not subjected to reassessment again and again, unless, of course, that disability is generative?

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate makes a very good point. It chimes with what I said earlier, which is that we need to target our resources in the right place and be sure that individuals are looked after in terms not of the end result but of the process. That is extremely important. I will make this point again: where an individual has severe conditions, it must be right that we, the state as a compassionate country, look after them, and we need to be able to provide a better focus. This is, again, one of the reasons why we are bringing forward this Green Paper.

Love Matters (Archbishops’ Commission on Families and Households Report)

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Friday 8th December 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, I will try to do even better than 10 minutes. I am grateful to my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury for putting forward this Motion. I should like to focus my remarks on families and children in relation to the criminal justice system, and particularly imprisonment, and I declare an interest as Anglican Bishop for Prisons in England and Wales.

Jesus Christ once placed a child front and centre as he taught his listeners. I want to use that image simply to pose the idea that we would navigate things differently, we would see different sorts of manifestos committed to the long-term and make better policies if the child were always the central focus and starting point for all our policy-making. It seems that so much of government policy is focused on short-term fixing for the now or a few years’ time. What would it look like if policy and legislation were shaped in response to the child born today into a network of relationships, and then their life as an adult in 20 or 30 years’ time?

This means investing more intentionally in the early years and family life. I say that as someone who was once a paediatrics speech and language therapist with training in family therapy. We need a systemic approach with a long-term view. Data published by the Ministry of Justice shows that 57% of adult prisoners have literacy levels below that of an 11-year-old, and we know that 42% of prisoners were expelled or excluded from school. What is going wrong upstream, not least in families, that leads to these statistics? Although not linear, research has shown how important it is to be aware of adverse childhood experiences when considering the causes of offending. As you have heard me say many times, prison costs between £50,000 and £60,000 per person, per year. Then add to that the social and economic cost of reoffending, estimated at £18 billion per annum. Much of this could be spent upstream, focusing on the multiple layers underlying the causes of crime, not least with a focus on early years, the child and the family.

Looking at those who are in prison, we should be focusing on rehabilitation, with relationship at its heart. At present, over 50% of those serving a sentence of under a year go on to reoffend. This is not good for offenders, victims, families or communities. Focusing resources on addressing homelessness, addiction and purposeful work is vital to reducing reoffending, and front and centre is the importance of stable and affirming relationships. I found it very interesting to discover that people in Dutch prisons work on their reintegration from day one of their sentence, which includes having to focus on their social networks. This connects to the significant reviews of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, on family ties. Prisoners visited by family or a partner are 39% less likely to commit another crime.

If sentencing focused on the child and the family, we would make stronger use of community sentencing and other options for non-violent offenders. That would include ways of strengthening social networks and healthy family ties. It would also mean, I believe, that we would change our policy on sending pregnant women to prison, not least given the stats on stillbirth, premature birth and even death. Where is the focus on the child? Then there are all those children in households which are impacted by parental imprisonment. It is estimated that more than 300,000 children have a parent in prison, but we do not know the exact number because there is no statutory way of recording these children or even knowing where they are.

As the prison population continues to rise, so does the number of children and families impacted, and parental imprisonment is recognised as one of those adverse childhood experiences which contributes to long-term health and social problems. There is an excellent recent film produced by the charity, Children Heard and Seen. It highlights horrifically the impact on a child when their parent is in prison. It ranges from reduced educational achievement and mental and physical well-being, through to losing their home and their school. Perhaps it is good to be reminded that almost 25% of the adult prison population have previously been in care. Nearly half of under 21 year-olds in contact with the criminal justice system have spent time in care. No child should be punished as a result of their parent’s offending. Early interventions by charities such as Children Heard and Seen need to be mainstreamed, and we need statutory provision to identify these children to ensure appropriate support for the long-term good—for everyone.

I was very pleased to hear the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, talk about the importance of listening to children in order to stop those intergenerational cycles of offending and reoffending. What we are doing is not good for families, for communities, for victims and offenders who are part of those families and communities. Unsurprisingly, recent research by the Prison Advice and Care Trust found that prisoners’ families are affected emotionally and financially. This might include losing a household income, as well as the cost of simply visiting someone in prison. Of course, the bigger picture, as I said, includes the children, young people, families and communities impacted by crime. All of this makes for more fractures in communities and conveys a subconscious message that love and relationships do not really matter.

The public narrative shaped by media headlines is that we need to be tougher on crime, and that equates to locking more people up and for longer to make our streets safer and our communities stronger. It is not true, and it is not supported by data or evidence. Actually, what we are doing is a soft option, particularly when there is no focus on rehabilitation and meaningful relationships when people are in prison. How often do we even hear the word love when it comes to criminal justice?

Let me say again: we are not serving offenders, victims, families or communities well. The tough option would be to look systemically at what we are doing, to ask what prisons are for, to put the child—one day to be an adult—front and centre and ask what we hope our interventions are really going to achieve long term. And to name love. If we agree with the Archbishops’ commission that loving families are central to the well-being of adults and children living in all types of households, then I believe we need to be asking what this means for reform in our criminal justice system.

Carers: Financial Support

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Tuesday 16th May 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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First, I wish the noble Baroness a very happy birthday. Moving on swiftly to her question, I very much note the points the report has produced; I read it over the weekend and it makes some important points. I said earlier how much we value the role of unpaid carers. Yes, the rate of carer’s allowance is £76.75 a week. The total caseload is 1.4 million and I think it very important indeed that we continue to review the role of carers and the carer’s allowance, but, as I mentioned earlier, there is a means-tested element here and top-ups are available for those in need.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, in addition to the issue of financial support for unpaid adult carers, we must not forget the contribution of young carers, who provide invaluable support to their families. What are the Government doing to ensure financial support for respite support, as well as access to a young carer’s lead in their school or college, as is currently available in Gloucestershire?

Viscount Younger of Leckie Portrait Viscount Younger of Leckie (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate makes a very good point, and that is certainly an element of what we are doing and looking at. As I said, the main point is that we very much recognise the importance of carers and their work. Indeed, Carers Week runs from 5 to 11 June this year. On respite care, the right reverend Prelate makes an important point.

Universal Credit

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Thursday 9th September 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, for introducing this important debate, and I declare my interest as a trustee of Feeding Britain. I will focus my time on the impact that withdrawing the £20 uplift will have on food poverty. More than 500 anti-poverty workers, volunteers and supporters within the Feeding Britain network have signed a petition calling on the Government not to remove the increase, and that petition will be delivered to No. 10 in about an hour.

Food banks in the Feeding Britain network have credited the £20 increase with helping to stabilise, or indeed reduce, the levels of need for crisis support. As has been said, the decision to remove that increase coincides with the ending of other support schemes, such as furlough and local support grants and, with the imminent predicted increase in food and energy prices, there is deep concern that withdrawing this uplift will lengthen the queues outside food banks.

A survey published this week for the Trussell Trust found that, faced with a cut of £20 a week, 1.2 million people—20% of those who claim universal credit—say that they are very likely to need to skip meals, and nearly 1 million—that is, 15%—say they are very likely to need to use a food bank as a result of the cut. I find it really shocking to read a stat from the Food Foundation, which estimates that in order to eat according to government guidelines for a healthy diet, the poorest in our society would have to spend 74% of their disposable income, compared to only 6% for the richest.

This is most certainly not about laying all the solution for addressing food poverty at the Government’s feet. The role of civil society and community engagement, particularly during the pandemic, has been inspiring and has involved many faith groups, and it needs to continue to be fanned into flame. During the first six months of the pandemic, a project involving the diocese of Gloucester partnering with a charity in Stroud called the Long Table delivered over 35,000 meals to the vulnerable and NHS workers. However, to enable civil society and community responsibility, we need the Government to put the right enablers and safeguards in place, and that means keeping this £20 uplift.

In 2018, I added my voice to the End Hunger UK campaign. Three years later, the fundamental point remains. While celebrating the work that churches and other faith and voluntary groups are doing to respond to urgent need, it is clear to me that structural change needs to happen to reduce the need for food banks in the first place. That now includes retaining the uplift to universal credit.

Benefit Reforms

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Excerpts
Thursday 10th January 2019

(5 years, 6 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of benefit reforms on families with children.

Baroness Buscombe Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Buscombe) (Con)
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My Lords, this Government support families. Our welfare system supports those who are vulnerable and helps people into work. These reforms are working, with 3.3 million more people in work and 300,000 fewer children in absolute poverty than in 2010, a record low. Once fully rolled out, universal credit will result in an extra 200,000 people moving into work and will empower people to work an extra 113 million hours a year to support their families.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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I thank the Minister for her Answer and I am grateful for recent engagement with faith and other groups on this issue, but the Government’s own statistics show that child poverty is rising among families with more than two children, even when those families have an adult in work. One of the principal drivers of this increase is the Government’s two-child limit, which makes it harder for parents of more than two children to work their way out of poverty, contrary to the aims of universal credit. In light of this evidence, will the Government reconsider that two-child policy?

Baroness Buscombe Portrait Baroness Buscombe
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My Lords, I welcome this question from the right reverend Prelate. First, I want to say that we now spend more in this country than any other developed nation on family benefits.