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Open letter to the Bishop of London

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open letter, bishop of london, two-child clause, poverty, ill health, UK childrenThe consequence is debilitating debt and hunger – which is known to damage mental and physical health

In an letter published in the The Times recently, Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders called for the policy limiting benefits to families with more than two children to be scrapped.

The “two-child policy”, introduced a year ago, means families can only claim child tax credits or universal credits for their first two children unless there are special circumstances.

The letter, sent to The Times and signed by 60 Church of England bishops, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Council of Britain, said ‘The policy is expected to tip an estimated extra 200,000 children into poverty.

‘It also conveys the regrettable message that some children matter less than others, depending on their place in the sibling birth order’ and that ‘There are likely to be mothers who will face an invidious choice between poverty and terminating an unplanned pregnancy.’

Responding to this, the Rev Paul Nicholson, of Taxpayers Against Poverty, said this was not the only problem religious leaders should be addressing; three million children were not only being hit by the “two child limit” they are also being hit by sanctions, cuts, caps and council tax, debt, hunger and ill health.

And Nicholson has, in turn, sent an open letter to the new Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, who ranks number three in the Church of England.

It reads:

Dear Bishop Sarah,

I write as the winner of the 2015 Social Policy Association Award for Best Non-Academic and as a member if the Advisory Council of the Institute for Brain Chemistry and Human Nutrition. 

Thank you for signing the letter deploring the two child limit on tax credits with other national faith leaders. That mistaken policy came in on top of the shredding of benefit incomes by £18bn since 2011 and as part of a further shredding of £12bn by 2020.

I hope you and other faith leaders will also speak out about:

1 – The bedroom tax, the benefit cap and the local housing allowance. They all cut housing benefit which leaves rent to be paid from Universal Credit or child tax credits. In other words the very low benefit income intended, and desperately needed, for food, water, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities has been required to pay rent since 2011 as a matter of national government policy.

2 – The council tax benefit has also been cut since 2013, with the same consequences as the above cut in housing benefit made worse by enforcement of arrears through the magistrates court and the bailiffs both of whose costs are added to the benefit claimants the council tax arrears. Haringey Council alone took 11,000 benefit claimants to court for late or non payment of council tax last year as a matter of local government policy.

3 – The benefit sanction, the universal credit and the zero hours contract stop for up to three months that “very low income intended, and desperately needed, for food, water, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities” as a matter of national government policy.

The consequence of all three policies is debilitating debt and hunger which is known to damage mental and physical health as shown by the Institute of Health Equity, The Equality Trust and Psychiatrists Against Austerity on our website.

There has been an unprecedented rise in infant deaths in 2015 and 16 among the babies of the UK’s poorest mothers.

We are also promoting land value tax because there are literally billions of pounds of increased wealth hoarded unearned, unused and untaxed in UK land since 1979. That would enable the abolition of the council tax, business rates and stamp duty. The overseas tax-havens are another home for tax-free UK wealth; they ought to be banned for the common good.

This letter in The Observer [see illustration] last Sunday endeavoured to illustrate how low income renters are being pushed off the land as in the clearances. Soon there will be no land in London for social housing.

Yours sincerely,

Paul.

And, he pointed out, now is the time for the compassionate majority to speak out and to vote wisely.

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