The Welfare Reform Bill is once again back in the media spotlight as amendments are being debated in the House of Lords.
The Church of Scotland has given its backing to one particular amendment, proposed by Baroness Lister, Lord Hope of Kirkwood and the Rt Rev John Packer, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds. The amendment has the support of a large number of organisations working with children, including Action for Children in Scotland, Banardo’s Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Citizens Advice Scotland, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Save the Children Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid and many others.
We want to ensure that claimants wth a dependent child or children do not face sanctions if they are unable to access work or work related activity, or to sustain work, due to a lack of appropriate childcare. Most lone parents want to have the opportunity to combine paid work with the vital job of being a parent. We believe, however, that the Welfare Reform Bill fails to recognise that the required childcare infrastructure is lacking in many parts of the UK – particularly before school starts and after it finishes, and during school holidays – and is insufficient to meet the demands being made upon benefit claimants. There also continues to be a serious lack of childcare settings that are properly equipped - and have staff properly prepared to deal effectively and positively with – children having disabilities, learning/communication/behaviour challenges or a wide range of additional support needs.
We hope that this amendment will be considered today and are seeking assurances from the Government that they will think again about the impact of their current proposals.
Please keep all in the Government and House of Lords in your prayers as they continue to deliberate on these important issues.