.Archbishop of Canterbury condemns benefit changes The Most Reverend Justin Welby said struggling families would be hard hit Continue reading the main story
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has backed a group of bishops who have written an open letter criticising government plans to change the benefits system.
They said it would have a "deeply disproportionate" effect on children.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby's move came after 43 bishops wrote the letter to the Sunday Telegraph.
The Department for Work and Pensions said tough decisions were necessary in order to keep the costs of welfare sustainable in the long term.
The letter from the Church of England bishops called on politicians to protect children and families whom they said were being hit hard by cuts.
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Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from the effects of this bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty.”
The Most Reverend Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
It has been supported by Dr Welby and the Archbishop of York, the Most Reverend John Sentamu.
In a statement from Lambeth Palace, Dr Welby said a civilised society had a duty to support the vulnerable, especially when times were hard.
He added that planned changes to the benefits system, which would cap rises in welfare payments to 1% for the next three years, would exact a large price on families who were already battling to make ends meet.
Dr Welby said: "Politicians have a clear choice. By protecting children from the effects of this bill, they can help fulfil their commitment to end child poverty."
The statement is Dr Welby's first major intervention in political life since he was named in his new role in November. He is due to be formally enthroned at Canterbury Cathedral on 21 March.
The Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill will be debated in the House of Lords next week.
This prompted the bishops to write to the Sunday Telegraph, saying they were concerned that 200,000 children could be pushed into poverty.
The bishops said: "Children and families are already being hit hard by cuts to support, including those to tax credits, maternity benefits and help with housing costs.
"They cannot afford this further hardship penalty. We are calling on the House of Lords to take action to protect children from the impact of this bill."
The newspaper said his intervention would come as a blow to Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith who is attempting to guide the reforms through Parliament.
BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said Dr Welby and Mr Duncan Smith met face-to-face within the past week and a government source said the issue did not come up.
Our correspondent said it was quite clear that Church and State would have plenty more to say to each other on this.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswomen 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."