Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting LU NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Archbishop condemns benefit changes
The Archbishop of Canterbury is among 43 bishops who have written an open letter to a newspaper condemning Government plans to change the benefits system, saying it will have a "deeply disproportionate" effect on children.
The Most Rev Justin Welby has warned that "children and families will pay the price" if plans to change the system go ahead in their current form, The Sunday Telegraph said. The Most Rev Welby and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, have backed the letter.
The newspaper said that the move would come as a blow to Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, who is attempting to steer the reforms through Parliament. He has said the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill, which will cap benefit rises at 1% a year until 2016, is needed to help get spending "back under control" and create a fairer deal for taxpayers.
But the archbishop, who will be formally enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on March 21, said the legislation would remove the protection given to families against the rising cost of living and could push 200,000 children into poverty.
He said: "As a civilised society, we have a duty to support those among us who are vulnerable and in need. When times are hard, that duty should be felt more than ever, not disappear or diminish.
"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. These changes will mean it is children and families who will pay the price for high inflation, rather than the Government."
A spokeswoman at the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Simply increasing benefits isn't the answer to tackling poverty, the last decade has shown that.
"For too long the welfare system has kept families trapped in a cycle of benefit dependency and made it impossible for many to contemplate moving into work and off benefits. That is not right or fair.
"We are fundamentally changing the system so people are helped into work and out of poverty, whilst providing support for those where work is not a realistic option.
"The facts are benefits have risen twice as fast as wages over the past five years, and even in these difficult economic times they will continue to rise each year."