UK

Benefit Reform 'Will Push More Children Into Poverty' Says Bishop Paul Butler Of Nottingham

20/04/2013 15:11 BST | Updated 20/04/2013 15:55 BST

A bishop has spoken of his "deep concern" over plans to change the benefits system, warning they will push more children into poverty and saying that "children suffering now creates very long term problems for us all."

Speaking at a meeting of the Diocesan Synod, the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham said parents needed to work to lift their children out of poverty but it was just as important for them to be able to spend time with their offspring.

The Rt Rev Paul Butler said: "As a nation we need to recognise the vital and essential role that parents play in caring for and raising their own children," he said.

"They must have time and space to be with, play with, encourage their own children. The best childhood is not found in vast amounts of childcare and little time with parents.

"There is a balance to be found. Part of that balance is through the redistribution of wealth from those who have most to those who have least through a just and fair tax and benefit system.

"Both ends of that system have to be tackled, tax is a good when it enables healthy redistribution and better childhoods for all our children.

"Parents have the most vital role of all, but the whole community has a responsibility to enable them to fulfil their role to the very best. This is the real intention behind child related benefits.

"Children suffering now creates potential very long term problems for us all."

In April a United Nations organisation said children's prospects in Britain were worse than most of their European neighbours, and the present government's austerity policies are making the situation even more dire.

Bishop Butler, who has been Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham since February 2010, was one of 43 bishops who signed an open letter to The Sunday Telegraph condemning the government's plans last month, and said a "fair tax and benefit system" was needed.

He added: "(The) Government does have to try and balance the national budget and so some hard decisions have to be made about where the national wealth is spent; that does mean some areas have to be cut.

"However there is a deep concern that some of the specific decisions have been unwise as they will push more children into poverty."

Bishop Butler also used the address to call for support for the "poverty of loneliness" experienced by many of the elderly and some farm workers.

"Many farmers face deep struggles to survive after last summer's poor weather, the severe cold and flooding through the autumn and winter, they need support," he said.