Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bishop's Wage Challenge over Rise in Poverty

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Bishop's Wage Challenge over Rise in Poverty

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Wearmouth Reporter rachel.wearmouth@ncjmedia.co.uk

THE North East needs to start looking at a pay rise if it is ever to tackle food bank poverty, the new Bishop of Durham has warned.

In what will be seen by some as a head-on challenge to the Government's austerity programme, the Right Rev Paul Butler has urged a new focus on introducing a living wage for those on the lowest income.

The soon-to-be appointed Bishop of Durham said a rise above the minimum wage should be considered as a way of helping many families who would otherwise be trapped in a cycle of poverty which sees the working poor left without enough money for food by the end of the month, although he avoided directly criticising the Government.

His defence of those facing day to day pressures on dwindling incomes comes after the Education Secretary Michael Gove said that families using food banks were doing so because of their household accounting.

He said: "Those pressure are often the result of decisions that they have taken which mean they are not best able to manage their finances."

The senior Anglican said those who need help are genuinely desperate and indicated a rise in wages from today's PS6.19 to PS7.45 could be the answer.

Bishop Paul, who takes up his role at Durham Cathedral in 2014, said: "My experience of visiting food banks in different places, and hearing reports from them is that the vast bulk of users would rather not have to do so. But they end up doing so because their income, from paid work or from benefits has simply not been able to stretch to pay everything."

In a carefully worded statement he added: "A large number of users are in work - sometimes only part-time because that is all they are able to get - but they are in work.

"Many people are on standing orders to cover their rent, heating payments etc and there simply is a shortage of money left to purchase food at the end of the week/month. …

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