Many Brits are facing 'a very hard winter', bishops warn

(Photo: Unsplash/Joel Muniz)

Church of England bishops have welcomed some of the measures in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement but warned that many people still face "a very hard winter". 

On Thursday, Jeremy Hunt unveiled plans to increase tax and cut spending. The national living wage will rise by 9.7% next year to £10.42 an hour and benefits will rise by 10.1% in line with the September rate of inflation. 

The Bishop of St Albans, Alan Smith, and the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, who speaks on poverty issues in the House of Lords, welcomed the Chancellor's commitment to keeping benefits in line with inflation. 

"It is heartening to hear the Chancellor single out the needs of the most vulnerable as a principle behind his Autumn Statement," they said.

"We recognise that he has had to make some very difficult choices and will continue to pray for him and for the Government as they carry these weighty responsibilities on behalf of everyone." 

They called, however, for an end to the two-child limit on Universal Credit, which they said "hits some of the poorest families hardest".

They also warned of increasing demand for foodbanks and other services offered by churches.

"This is going to be a very hard winter for many. Our churches, in communities across the country, are already reporting alarming rises in demand for foodbanks and other services which have become a lifeline," they said. 

"It is heartbreaking to hear of people who just a year ago were donating to foodbanks but are now using them themselves.

"Many of our churches are among the more than 3,700 public spaces which are opening up this winter as a Warm Space for people amid surging energy bills.

"While we recognise the intense economic pressures on this country, as the Chancellor acknowledges, it is a global situation and we will continue to hold the Government to its commitment to return to giving 0.7 per cent of national income on international development."