The office of the children’s commissioner has released its assessment (pdf) of the child rights impact of the welfare (reform) bill, and it is overwhelmingly critical of the proposed changes.
Writing on the benefits cap, the commissioner’s office concluded that likely outcomes were “an increase in child poverty”, “children losing their home”, and “incentivising family breakdown“. In addition, they warned of a disproportionate impact on children from some BME groups, children living with kinship carers, and disabled children and children of disabled parents.
The limiting of housing benefit to just 30 per cent of the value of local rents comes under criticism, with the office noting it will likely result in:
An increase in child poverty, with associated poor health, educational and other outcomes; children losing their home as a result of it becoming unaffordable; and effects upon children of in-country migration.
They are also concerned about universal credit, particularly the decision to reduce the amount available to disabled children:
It is unclear why provision for disabled children is intended to mirror that for disabled adults since children under 16 are not expected to increase their income by finding work.
…[Some] disabled children will lose £27.09pw. The government estimates this change will affect around 100,000 disabled children. Due to care needs and difficulty of accessing affordable and suitable childcare for disabled children parents/carers are less able to mitigate the effects of this loss by accessing more earned income.
In all, the children’s commissioner is concerned about the impact of the welfare bill on ten articles of the UN convention on the rights of the child:
Article 2: The right to enjoy all human rights, without discrimination
Article 3: That the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration
Article 6: The right to life and to develop “to the maximum extent possible”
Article 9: The right for children not to be separated from their parents against their will
Article 12: The right for children to participate and express their views
Article 16: The right to private and family life
Article 19: The right to protection from child maltreatment
Article 23: The right for disabled children to enjoy a “full and decent life”, and their right to “special care” and assistance
Article 24: The right to enjoy “the highest attainable standard of health”
Article 26: The right to benefit from social security
Other choice quotes include:
For families already living in poverty, [the benefit cap] is likely to result in money that would ordinarily have been spent on necessities for children’s health and wellbeing: heating, warm clothing, nutrition, etc, being diverted to housing costs.
Viewing the child as the holder of the right to social security both makes plain the discriminatory effect of the cap (eg on family size grounds) and counters the argument that parents can find work in order to avoid the imposition of the cap, since children are powerless to affect this.
We are particularly concerned at the potential impact of clause 68 [the housing allowance cap] on children living in domestic violence refuges, where rents tend to be higher…
In hindering the ability of children living with domestic abuse to escape an abusive situation due to the lack of financial autonomy of their non-abusive parent, the Universal Credit provisions fail to take all appropriate legislative measures to protect children from domestic abuse.
Today, the Lords debate whether or not to time-limit the employment support allowance. Campaigner Sue Marsh has written a deeply personal account of how losing this lifeline would affect her:
For my family (and DWP estimates show that another 700,000 families like mine will be affected) the impact of losing that £388.45 a month will be devastating. We already live below the official poverty line and can’t pay our bills.
Soon we will have no savings left and taking away £4,661 a year from us will mean we lose everything. As I mentioned, it is three times more than higher rate tax payers will lose in child benefit yet this is a cut that will affect some of the poorest households in Britain.
This bad bill must be stopped.
• Everyone concerned about welfare reform needs to step up to the mark – Declan Gaffney, January 10th 2012
• Disability minister ignorant on how legal aid cuts affecting disabled people – Alex Hern, January 10th 2012
• Time to step forward on the Spartacus report – Alex Hern, January 9th 2012
• Boris has slammed Coalition welfare reforms – from the left – Daniel Elton, January 6th 2012
• Five reasons to oppose the welfare bill – Daniel Elton, December 12th 2011