Welfare reforms 'undermine' rights of children
The government’s welfare reforms undermine the rights of children, the children’s commissioner has said.
The welfare reform bill, which will cap total household benefits in line with average estimated earnings for working households, is currently going through the House of Lords.
The cap is controversial as child benefit is included when assessing household benefit, but is excluded from the definition of earnings the £26,000 cap is based on. This, according to several peers and housing bodies, means the cap disproportionately impacts on families with large children
Maggie Atkinson, the children’s commissioner, warned that the cap is likely to:
- Increase child poverty, which is associated with poor health and educational outcomes.
- Lead to children losing their home
- Incentivise family breakdown as in some cases two separate households would allow a greater overall amount of benefit
- Disproportionately hits black and minority ethnic families as children from BME groups are more likely to live in larger families
Ms Atkinson said the imposition of the benefit cap ‘risks unjustified discrimination in the enjoyment of the right to social security by children from larger families’ and could breach articles in the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child.
She said: ‘Viewing the child as the holder of the right to social security both makes plain the discriminatory effect of the cap and counters the argument that parents can find work in order to avoid the imposition of the cap, since children are powerless to effect this.’
An amendment has been tabled by the Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds which would exclude child benefit from the cap calculation. It is expected to come before the Lords on 23 January.