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'It will be a hard winter for many,' bishops commend budget statement but call for an end to the two-child limit on universal credit

by Kelly Valencia

Two leading Church of England bishops on poverty issues in the House Lords have shared their reaction to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Autumn statement.

Both bishop of St Albans, Rt Rev Alan Smith and bishop of Durham, Rt Rev Paul Butler have commended the Chancellor's intention to prioritise those most in need. 

"It is heartening to hear the Chancellor single out the needs of the most vulnerable as a principle behind his Autumn Statement," they said. 

"We recognise that he [the Chancellor] has had to make some very difficult choices and will continue to pray for him and for the Government as they carry these weighty responsibilities on behalf of everyone."

But although the bishops praised the Chancellor's decision to raise benefits in line with inflation, they believe the two-child limit on universal credit should be removed as it hits "some of the poorest families the hardest".  

They continued: "This is going to be a very hard winter for many. Our churches, in communities across the country, are already reporting alarming rises in demand for foodbanks and other services which have become a lifeline.

"It is heart-breaking to hear of people who just a year ago were donating to foodbanks but are now using them themselves.

"Many of our churches are among the more than 3,700 public spaces which are opening up this winter as a Warm Space for people amid surging energy bills." 

The bishops also called on the government to preserve its electoral promise of spending 0.7 per cent of national income in oversees aid. 

In 2020, the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak reduced the contribution to 0.5 per cent as the Treasury was struggling with the mounting cost of the pandemic. 

The statement read: "While we recognise the intense economic pressures on this country, as the Chancellor acknowledges, it is a global situation and we will continue to hold the Government to its commitment to return to giving 0.7 per cent of national income on international development."

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