Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Minister admits benefit cap will raise child poverty

A junior minister has admitted the government’s plan to cap rises in benefits will lead to 200,000 more children being in relative income poverty.

Conservative Esther McVey, parliamentary under-secretary at the Department for Work and Pensions, made the admission in response to a question in the House of Commons from MP Chris Skidmore on Tuesday.

Ms McVey said: ‘We estimate that the up-rating measures in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 will result in around an extra 200,000 children being deemed by this measure to be in relative income poverty.’

The 200,000 figure refers to relative income, which changes over time.

Ms McVey said: ‘These impacts are not forecasts of the level of child poverty and do not indicate what will happen to trends over time. It is misleading to look at the impacts of uprating in isolation. The government is investing in tacking the root causes of child poverty through making work pay.

‘The government strongly believes looking at relative income in isolation is not a helpful measure to track progress towards our target of eradicating child poverty.’

However, campaigners Child Poverty Action Group said Ms McVey’s admission shows the government’s child poverty strategy is in ‘utter disarray.’

Alison Garnham chief executive of CPAG, said: ‘Ministers seem to be in denial that, under current policies, their legacy threatens to be the worst poverty record of any government for a generation, despite their duties under the Child Poverty Act to reduce child poverty across a basket of measures including absolute, relative and persistent poverty as well as for deprivation levels which show how well families are able to meet basic costs.’

The government’s Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill, currently going through parliament, will cap rises in a number of benefits to 1 per cent rather than the level of inflation as it is currently. Local housing allowance base rates, used to calculate housing benefit levels for private renters, will be capped at 1 per cent for two years from April 2014. Increases in most other working age benefits will also be capped at 1 per cent for three years.

Labour opposes the bill while a group of Liberal Democrat backbenchers is seeking to amend the legislation so benefits are instead increased in line with wage inflation.

Labour has tabled a series of amendments, including one saying the act should not come into force if the government’s reduction to the higher rate of income tax from April goes ahead as planned. The party is also calling for a job guarantee for anyone who has been in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance for two years.

Readers' comments (21)

  • Hardly a surprise. The fact that she has "admitted" this will count for nought though. They will still plough on ahead and implement the changes. If they said that their policies would cause the death of 10,000 people it would not make them change tack. Why? They don't give a damn. It won't beTHEIR children that will be in poverty after all will it?

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  • what a curious resignation speech. by deviating from the mantra she is no doubt showing she is weary of high office ahead of the next reshuffle. presumably a departmental clarification will follow citing mis quoting by the beastly press and the truly fluffy approach the condems take to the most vulnerable.

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  • The benefit cap affects mainly large families, and is designed to do so. As the minister says this inevitably affects child poverty. On the other hand it is not the public's job to subsidise people who have children they can't afford to bring up.

    This is not a new dilemma. Policy has tried to subsidise the children directly (eg through free school meals) rather than giving money to the incontinent parents. However there are substantial limits to this. And in a free society we can't forcibly sterilise people.

    I don't have any solutions, and the sort of people who have large numbers of children (usually for religious reasons) are unlikely to be deterred by financial sanctions.

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  • I despair, having just returned from visiting a tenant with 11 children, all sporting designer clothes and trainers, playing with gadgets I can only dream of buying my own kids.

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  • lets not forget though that there are also very many hard working families with two kids just about coping who are about to be hit by a train. by all means limit benefits to encourage responsible family planning but dont tar everyone with the same brush.

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  • The benefit cap won't affect families with 2 children unless they are living in the City of Westminster.

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  • michael barratt

    The ConDems appeared to be comfortable with reforms that inflict collateral damage on childrenand the disabled. While bankers and politicians continue to enjoy their champagne lifestyles.

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  • Chris

    and this has come as a surprise why exactly?

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  • I think people claiming benefits should sensibly think through their decisions on the amount of children they have. People that do not claim benefits have to limit the size of their families.
    Having worked in support for many years I can say with some certainty that regardless of how much money is given to some families their children will always be in poverty due to their parents not being able to prioritise their budget for different reasons.
    I have never ever been to a house without a large tv or electronic gadgets but i have been to numerous where they family don't have enough food, heating or carpets on the floor.

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  • Christopher Dale

    Tell us something we don't know Esther. It didn't take a genius in economics or social policy to work that out.

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