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Opportunity for action: Welfare Reform Bill and Child Benefit

Related pages: Politics, Ecumenical, Parliament

Bishops’ amendment raises the cap

Bishops, Cross Bench, Labour, and Liberal Peers combined yesterday to introduce an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill that would exempt Child Benefit payments when calculating the proposed £26,000 annual cap on welfare benefits. The amendment was passed by 252 to 237 votes.

Without the amendment the Welfare Reform Bill would cap all benefits at the average wage £500 per week regardless of need or size of family. In doing so it fails to compare like with like by ignoring the fact that those earning £500 per week would themselves be eligible for Child Benefit. It appeals to a misplaced sense of fairness in comparing high maximum rates of benefit on the one hand with average earnings on the other. It undermines the principle of the Beveridge report that those who meet eligibility criteria for benefit receive their entitlement. Those with large families of children on £26,000 who are not working would be denied a benefit that many earning £80,000 per year would still receive. While Child Benefit is not included in calculating average wages for setting the cap on benefits, it is included in the maximum that could be received by those out of work.

According to the Department of Work and Pension’s Impact assessment in its unamended form 220,000 children would be affected, and 67,000 households would lose an average of £83 a week. Large families where the sole earner loses their job through no fault of their own would be denied Child Benefit, a benefit that was never intended to be means tested. Many large families would be forced to move house and it would be harder to track the cases of vulnerable children under local authority supervision.

Quakers in contact with their MPs are encouraged asked to write to them, urging their support for the Bishop of Ripon’s Amendment and to affirm the principle that Child Benefit is excluded from any calculations regarding maximum rates of Welfare when the Bill returns to the Commons.

Michael Bartlet
Parliamentary Liaison Secretary
24th January 2012