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Bishop of Norwich slams welfare cuts

The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010

The Bishop of Norwich has called for the government to think again over planned welfare reforms, which he warned could leave families homeless by forcing them to choose between rent or food.

Bishop Graham James was one of 18 Church of England bishops who signed a letter sent to a national newspaper criticising the coalition’s Welfare Reform Bill, which includes a planned £500-a-week benefits cap for families.

The bishops are concerned that the policy will leave children facing “severe poverty and potentially homelessness”.

They are supporting a series of amendments to the Bill - set to be debated in the House of Lords today, which have been drawn up with held from the Children’s Society.

The bishops’ criticism of the government has been supported by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is a president of the Children’s Society.

Bishop Graham explained his reasons for signing the letter. He said: “It’s because the unemployment figures this week demonstrate just how many people who want a job can’t find one.

“The benefit cap, of course, is being introduced to ensure there isn’t an incentive to remain on benefits rather than work, but it’s the way its being introduced which can penalise children in large families.

“We’re asking the government to reconsider the way they’re introduced. For example, they could take child benefit out of the equation, which would help children in large families.

“A large family could quickly have to choose between rent and food and become homeless and the cost to society would be much larger.”

The policy was defended by the Department for Work and Pensions. A spokesman said: “It simply isn’t fair that households on out-of-work benefits can receive a greater income from the state than the average working household gets in wages. “This is why we have proposed a benefit cap of around £500 a week.”

• What do you think of the reforms? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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