Children's Society leads bishops' announcement on Welfare Reform

The Children's Society's comms team has led the PR handling of an announcement which saw 18 bishops condemn the Government's welfare reforms.

Rowan Williams: joins protest against welfare reforms
Rowan Williams: joins protest against welfare reforms

The charity, which helps vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, gained the front page of The Observer yesterday after it sent a letter to the newspaper signed by 18 Church of England bishops.

The story was subsequently picked up by the news websites of The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the BBC and others, after the Archbishop of Canterbury also backed the letter.

Children’s Society senior press officer Julia Rogers explained that she had led the handling of the story, firstly by cutting down a longer letter which had already been written to the Prime Minister.

Rogers said: ‘We cut the letter down and then our team got the bishops to sign it. We sold it in to [Observer policy editor] Daniel Boffey on Wednesday and then he spoke to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who backed the bishops.’

Rogers added that the Children’s Society team also sent briefing notes and Q&A documents to the bishops on Friday to aid them in taking calls from the media, which was expected to take place once the letter was printed in The Observer.

Diocese of Ripon and Leeds press and comms officer John Carter said that he handled numerous press enquiries and interview requests for bishop John Packer including Sky News, BBC News 24, Channel 4 News, and BBC Radio 4.
The letter, which was also printed in its entirety in The Observer’s letters page, stated the belief that the Welfare Reform Bill, which suggests a cap on benefits, could ‘push some of the most vulnerable children in the country into severe poverty’ and that it will cut support to 210,000 children.

The story follows criticism of the Church of England over its attitude towards protesters at the Occupy camp outside St Paul's Cathedral.

George Pitcher, who until September was secretary for public affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury, said of the move by the bishops to sign the letter: ‘The House of Bishops hasn't always been very co-ordinated on the big political issues, but has been getting its act together lately.

‘This has nothing to do with the Occupy movement - the bishops have been quietly influencing coalition policies since the beginning, but as the cuts in public services become more savage, they'll be more inclined to break cover. The Church is unlikely to stand by and watch the weak pay the price for the incompetence and gluttony of the financial services industry.’

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