UK Political

 

ActionBrexitChurch Statements · 

An open letter to the new Prime Minister from leaders of 7 Christian denominations expresses concern that failing to agree a deal on Brexit will “hit those held back by poverty very hard indeed”.

The Church leaders say they have been “compelled” to write to the new Prime Minister because of his position that leaving the European Union without a deal is acceptable.

The letter also invites the Prime Minister to visit one of the many social actions projects run by churches to support millions of citizens who live in poverty.

The letter is signed by leaders from the Methodist Church of Great Britain, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Unions of Great Britain, Scotland and Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Salvation Army, Quakers in Britain and the Scottish Episcopal Church, which together have approximately 700, 000 members.

Dear Mr Johnson

As Churches, we have a particular care and concern for the people in our society who are locked in poverty.  Around the country, local churches are helping families to cope with the rising tide of poverty. Projects range from simple coffee mornings run by a few volunteers, to large projects such as foodbanks, homeless support, employment advice and debt counselling.

With this in mind, we are compelled to write expressing our urgent concern about your position that leaving the European Union without a deal is acceptable. Advice and data from multiple reputable sources, including the UK Government, indicate that failing to agree a deal will hit those held back by poverty very hard indeed.

The UK imports 10,000 shipping containers of food from the EU each day. These containers are part of long and complex integrated supply chains. Even minor disruptions to this chain have in the past rapidly had serious consequences. A no-deal Brexit will cause a huge and potentially crippling disruption. Government and many other reputable sources highlight the immediate risk of shortages and price rises. Over the longer term they point to the costs of new and less fluid supply chains increasing food bills for families.

Last year our partner, Trussell Trust, which represents around half of the UK’s foodbanks, gave out a record-breaking 1.6 million 3-day supplies of food. At a time when increasing numbers of families have difficulties putting enough food on the table, we believe it is irresponsible to consider a course of action that is expected to make that situation worse.

It is also unclear how a wide range of other vital products and services will continue to be delivered in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Government, industry and charity sources indicate potential problems with both energy and medical supplies.

The UK Government’s no-deal planning documents highlight that many of the difficulties caused by a no-deal Brexit can only be tackled in collaboration with the EU. The Cabinet Office states that for many issues we must seek accommodations with the EU which are “not within the UK’s gift to unilaterally control or mitigate”. In essence, the Government will be relying on the hope that our former EU partners are willing to cooperate even without an agreement – a huge gamble to take with the basic needs of our poorest citizens and communities.

The impacts of a no-deal Brexit are at best highly uncertain, and at worst deeply worrying. Our view that it would put at risk the welfare and safety of the poorest communities in the UK is formed on the basis of the best available evidence, including our presence in local communities in every part of the UK . It is notable that assurances about our ability to cope with a no-deal Brexit, while frequent, are yet to be supported by substantial evidence.

Evidence-free dismissals of well-founded concerns are at this stage both dangerous and inappropriate. Your Government’s willingness to embrace a no-deal Brexit places upon it a responsibility to demonstrate that the most vulnerable in our communities, those locked in poverty, will not be harmed.

We ask that your Government urgently publishes its current evidence on the impact of a no-deal Brexit on disadvantaged communities. We would also be pleased to welcome you to one of our many projects to hear from those who a no-deal Brexit may most impact.

Rather than being absent from the debate, this evidence and these communities should be at the heart of our debates around Brexit.

We assure you of our prayers as you take up this challenging new role.

Yours sincerely

Signed by the leaders of the seven churches, and nearly 1000 others (still counting)

11th January 2019 Churches, faith groups and charities are agreed that the two child rule is a terrible policy. It is wrong in principle and its many bad consequences will include pushing around 200,000 children into poverty. Today’s announcement is welcome because, in the short term, 15,000 families will not have their family’s support cut because of the rule. In the long term however the policy which focuses cuts on the country’s poorest children remains unchanged.

What is the Two–Child rule?  Universal Credit will support only two-children per family and no more. There are exceptions including for families with twins (or other multiples) or if the child was conceived through rape. The latter is particularly distressing as in order to receive support for her child, a woman must disclose deeply personal and distressing information which is then held on file by the Department for Work and Pensions for long periods.

The policy aims to change the behaviour of low-income families by “Encouraging parents to reflect carefully on their readiness to support an additional child.1 Government has been very careful not to say that the intention of the policy is to encourage society’s poorest people to have fewer children – although it is hard to draw any other conclusion.

What has changed?  Despite the fact that the two-child rule is intended to affect people’s decision to have children, before today it was to apply to children conceived years before the policy was ever announced. This was clearly unfair and contrary to the Government’s stated aims. Today’s announcement undoes that particular injustice and means only children born after the policy came into force will be affected.

The result is that children born before April 2017 are permanently exempted from the rule. Amber Rudd has reiterated her intention to press on with the rule for children born after that date. That means the full impact of the policy has been delayed but not altered.

The wrong premise  The policy design assumes that families always know how many children they will conceive, but for a lot of reasons that is not always the case. It is also not possible to know if your family will remain financially secure for the entire 18+ years over which a new baby will remain financially dependent.

Parents who “reflect carefully”, just as the Government wishes, sometimes hit hard times and can lose their job, their health or even their life. The benefit system was designed to ensure that all families were able to meet their basic needs when financial pressures strike. If you have more than two children, this policy casts you and your children adrift.

Moreover, large families are often created not by births but when two single-parent families join together to become one family. This can be a hugely positive step for both parents and children but this policy places huge financial obstacles in their way.

If the aim is to reduce the birth rate on low-income families, the best evidence available 1 shows that it will not work. Some parts of the United States have imposed similar child limits. For most communities, there was no effect on birth rate and for some it actually increased the birth rate. The best explanation is that women who are financially weakened are less able to say no to partners who want more children.

The wrong outcomes  Families with more than three children already experience much higher-than-average levels of poverty. The two-child rule removes large amounts of money – around £3,000 per additional child – from families that are already struggling. The result is a large cut focused on the poorest children – meaning that already-impoverished lives are made more difficult and 200,000 more children are pushed into poverty. Universal Credit combines in-work benefits with sickness and other out-of-work benefits. As a result, the two-child policy hits those families where the parents are already earning as well as families where adults simply cannot work.

We also know that the policy puts a financial pressure on low-income families to terminate pregnancies. It is not yet clear to what extent women are responding to that pressure (if at all). Deeply troubling reports from the charity Refuge state that abusive partners have tried to coerce women to terminate pregnancies and, in some truly awful instances, used violence to try to trigger miscarriage.

The wrong principles  The benefit system should provide a solid foundation so that families can meet their basic needs. The two–child rule breaks that principle and says that in order to encourage “reflection” (and presumably reduce the numbers of children being born into in low-income families), we should accept that the basic needs of many families will not be met. Those who accept the 2-child rule must accept that the policy deliberately denies some children even the basic level of support offered by the benefit system. The result of that choice is that many of those children will suffer the long term consequences of poverty in terms of their education, health and life chances.

The position of the churches, alongside many others, is that is the wrong choice. Children are valuable gifts from God and deserve protection from the indignity of poverty – regardless of the size of their family or any other circumstance of birth.


21st June 18  JPIT launches a campaign to challenge the government’s approach to illegal immigration, which they say is leading to destitution, discrimination and distrust.   

The Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have joined forces to call on the government to review entirely the web of policies that have created the hostile environment. In a new report for church members, Destitution, Discrimination and Distrust: the web of the hostile environment, they set out how aspects of the policies run counter to Christian teaching. 

The campaign follows recent revelations about how British citizens such as members of the ‘Windrush generation’ have lost their homes, jobs and access to NHS treatment because of the policies. But the report argues that the web of the hostile environment reaches much further.   

Speaking on behalf of the denominations, the church leaders the Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union, the Revd Richard Frazer, convenor of the Church and Society Committee of the Church of Scotland, the Revd Loraine N Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference and the Revd Kevin Watson and Alan Yates, Moderators of the United Reformed Church, said:

″As a group of Church denominations, the injustices of the hostile environment alarm us. The impact of the hostile environment has gone well beyond immigrants who are in the country illegally. It is of deep concern that people who do not look or sound ‘British’ are now facing increased levels of discrimination in finding homes and employment.

″We believe it is inhumane to use the threat of destitution as a policy tool to encourage people to leave the country and we call for an immediate end to indefinite detention.

″This is not about who we do or do not allow into the UK, but about how we relate to one another inside our borders. Due process, justice and the proper implementation of immigration policies should not require us to live in suspicion of our neighbour. The hostile environment spins a web of distrust and encourages suspicion. As Christians we believe that God calls us to offer welcome to the stranger and care for the vulnerable, whoever they are.

″Many of our churches support those who have suffered hardship as a result of the hostile environment. Our churches include some of the very people who are at risk of destitution and discrimination. Our Christian faith moves us to pray and work for a society where people are truly hospitable to one another.

″We are therefore calling for a review of immigration policy and practice to examine the damaging effects that the hostile environment is having on the whole of society.″

The campaign launches during Refugee Week and will run over four weeks with a report, stories, infographics and films of how a range of people have been affected by the hostile environment. On social media the hashtag #EndHostility will be used.

 

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From JPIT         Churches call for support on treaty banning nuclear weapons

• Churches release a video calling for people to act in support of the ground breaking UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

• People are invited to sign a “picture petition” asking the government to prepare to sign and ratify the Treaty at the first opportunity.

A two-minute video calling on Christians to safeguard God’s good world through working towards a future free of nuclear weapons has been released this week. The video, which is being distributed digitally to thousands across the world is a joint call to action from five Christian denominations: the Baptist Union, the Methodist Church, the Quakers, the Church of Scotland, and the United Reformed Church. The video can be found at https://youtu.be/oYiCtLJ4WYk .

The video explains, in simple cartoons, the basis for the Churches’ support for the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and calls on people to join in this multinational movement towards a world free of nuclear weapons. The Treaty once ratified will make the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons illegal under international law.  

The Churches are inviting people to submit their names and images online to a picture petition that will be delivered to the UK government in February. The letter asks the government “to urgently develop and publish a transition plan so that the UK is ready to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the first opportunity.” It states that “the continued threat of use of nuclear weapons by a few governments is contrary to the genuine peace that Christians and others seek to build.”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signature at the UN on 20th September 2017. It places nuclear weapons in the same legal category as biological and chemical weapons. It is hoped that this will be a significant step towards a nuclear weapons free world.

The call to action from Churches comes in the same week that ICAN (the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons) will be presented with the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition for their role in achieving the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Alongside the video, the Joint Public Issues Team has produced an Advent reflection for this week for churches and their members. It explores the story of one of Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of Hiroshima who has worked with ICAN, as an example of what it means to prepare the way for Christ.  

Steve Hucklesby, speaking on behalf of the Churches, said: “Even a limited nuclear conflict would have devastating humanitarian and environmental consequences killing innocent people. Relying on nuclear weapons for your security poses unacceptably high risks. It encourages proliferation and cannot form the basis of a just peace. This short video shows that there is another way. The UN treaty for the prohibition of nuclear weapons is the product of a new global movement. We hope that people will watch this video, share it with friends, and support a more equitable and safer future for all.”

 

 

    


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