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UK religious leaders call for commission to tackle child poverty

Religious leaders in the UK send a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the need to address child poverty.

By Vatican News staff writer

As the UK grapples with a second wave of the Coronavirus, religious leaders in the country have written to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, voicing their concern about hunger and poverty, especially among children.

Injustice of child poverty

Signed by, amongst others, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, they stress, "We can and must all do something together to eliminate this injustice."

In the letter, representatives from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist faiths urge the British government to set up a cross-party commission as soon as possible to tackle the underlying causes of child poverty in the country.

They also point out that “child poverty has remained stubbornly high under the leadership of all political parties.”

Child hunger not a new problem

The letter was sent to the Prime Minister after parliamentarians rejected a Labour party motion that provided for the extension of free school luncheon vouchers even during holidays.

The religious leaders highlight that thanks to an awareness campaign, led by footballer Marcus Rashford, "the pandemic has brought to light the problem of hunger and child poverty.”

The letter states, however, that despite the recent spotlight on the issue, child hunger is not a new problem.

“The growing use of food banks, most of which are run by churches, synagogues and mosques, is the extreme and visible manifestation of a much wider and deeper problem,” the letter states.

According to official statistics, child poverty has increased and worsened over the years as more and more low-income, insecurely paid working families struggle to make ends meet, further exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19".

Protecting the most vulnerable

While the faith leaders “applaud the Government’s efforts to sustain employment and to bolster the social security system to provide extra support for those on the lowest incomes”, they say “the temporary increase in Universal Credit should be made permanent and extended to cover those on legacy benefits, and Governments should commit to increasing working age benefits at least in line with inflation (as is already the case for pensioners), in order to maintain an adequate safety net for those falling on hard times.”

The letter concludes by stating that no child should ever go to bed hungry: "It is our duty to come together to protect the most vulnerable in our society, especially in times of crisis.”

04 November 2020, 11:46