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Bishop thankful to government for 'listening' on universal credit

Fri 11 Jan 2019
By Cara Bentley

The Church of England has welcomed a government U-turn on the Universal Credit benefit system.

A controversial plan to extend the two-child benefits cap retrospectively - affecting those born before April 2017 - is to be scrapped.

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd says she wants to "reset" the public perception of Universal Credit.

Speaking to Premier following the announcement, Bishop of Durham Rt Rev Paul Butler said it was good news for families and it showed that the government was listening to those concerned.

Calling for further action, he said: "I hope this also signals a willingness to look at the two child limit more fully.

"It's a policy the Church of England have always had major questions about because it undervalues the life of every child."

Currently families who have had their third child since April 2017 aren't able to claim benefits for them.

Today's announcement has been welcomed by Christian Labour MP Helen Goodman.

Speaking to Premier, she said: "I was the MP who led the rebellion against the legislation which was introduced in 2015. I think it's wholly wrong and unjust to penalise these families with more than two children."

Again calling for the government to go further, she said: "The decision is not absolutely perfect because it applies to children who were born before the change is made, not all future families. I don't think there should be a cap at all in families that are having three or four children now.

"Families with a large number of children face higher rates of poverty than families with smaller number of children. Now one of my original rejections...is that some people for religious reasons have more children and I think it's discriminatory, quite honestly, against people who might be Roman Catholic or might be Muslim who take a different view on contraception from the view I take."

Other announcements made by the work and pensions secretary today include an indication to end the freeze on benefits next year and for Universal credit payments to go directly to a household's main carer.

Listen to the full interview with Helen Goodman MP here:

Listen to Paul Butler on Premier's News Hour here:

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