UK & World News
Archbishop Warns Benefit Cuts Will Hit Children
The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned the Government that "children and families will pay the price" for cuts to the benefits system.
In his first significant criticism of Government policy, The Most Rev Justin Welby has said that the measures will have a "deeply disproportionate" effect on children.
The Most Rev Welby is among 43 bishops who have written an open letter to the Government condemning its plans.
The comments made in the letter indicate that the archbishop, who will be formally enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on March 21, will be willing to enter political debate.
His predecessor, Dr Rowan Williams, was strongly criticised for expressing his views about Government policy.
The Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill will cap benefit rises at 1% a year until 2016.
The archbishop 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."
He added: "Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from the effects of this Bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty."
Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is attempting to steer the reforms through.
The Government says the changes are needed to help get spending back under control and create a fairer deal for taxpayers.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "In difficult economic times we've protected the incomes of pensioners and disabled people, and most working age benefits will continue to increase 1%.
"This was a tough decision but it's one that will help keep the welfare bill sustainable in the longer term.
"By raising the personal allowance threshold, we've lifted two million people out of tax altogether, clearly benefiting people on a low income."
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