A group of 60 Anglican bishops have been joined by other faith and charity leaders to criticise a British government cap on the number of children in a family who count for welfare purposes. Tax Credits and Universal Credits are two welfare benefits paid to unemployed people and those on low-incomes. Since last year, calculations of the amount families receive have been restricted to count no more than two children. In a letter published in The Times newspaper today, the faith leaders say that it risks tipping “an estimated extra 200,000 children into poverty.”
The faith leaders say that “the policy is making it harder for parents to achieve a stable and resilient family life. By 2021, 640,000 families will have been affected. Most are low-earning working families, most have three children and some will have made decisions about family size when they were able to support children through earnings alone, but later claimed tax credits or universal credit after bereavement, redundancy, separation, disability, illness or simply low pay.”
They argue that the policy “also conveys the regrettable message that some children matter less than others, depending on their place in the sibling birth order”; and they warn that “there are likely to be mothers who will face an invidious choice between poverty and terminating an unplanned pregnancy,” describing it as “a grave concern”.
They argue: “children are a private joy and a public good. They are all equally deserving of subsistence support.”
The letter was signed by 26 diocesan and 34 other bishops. It was also signed by a past President and Vice President of the Methodist Conference; the Recording Clerk for the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain; the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews; the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain; and leaders of three child poverty and social action charities.
A spokesman for the government told The Times that the policy “will be delivered in the most effective, compassionate way, with the right exceptions and safeguards. But it’s right that people on benefits have to make the same financial choices as those supporting themselves solely through work.”