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Government overturns House of Lords' Welfare Reform Bill defeats

Children's Commissioners express deep concerns about the impact of the Bill

The House of Commons has reversed all the defeats suffered by the government's Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords.

The amendments to the Bill made by the Lords were rejected and the original provisions reinstated. This included the peers' amendment that parents should not be charged for accessing the Child Support Agency. However, the government has undertaken to reduce the fee payable to £20.

For the BBC's report on the parliamentary proceedings, please click here.

Meanwhile, the four Children's Commissioners have expressed deep concerns about the impact of Welfare Reform Bill on children.

A statement by the Commissioners says:

"We, the UK's four Children's Commissioners, are deeply concerned at the serious negative impact of the proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill on hundreds of thousands of children.

"We urge the UK Government to reconsider its plans, specifically the £26,000 benefit cap to be imposed on families each year. The plan to reduce housing benefit payments and include child benefit within the cap limit will have a disproportionate impact on children.

"Families who receive welfare benefits are particularly vulnerable because they live in poverty - small changes in their household income can have a big effect on their welfare. We are concerned that many more families and their children will be pushed into absolute poverty over the coming years if these proposed changes go ahead. 

"Moreover, we have concerns around the knock-on effect these changes are likely to have on other services, at a local authority level and within the third sector. This comes at a time when many of these services are facing reduced budgets with the prospect of capacity needing to be increased as a consequence of more families finding themselves in hardship.

"There is now a considerable body of evidence, including the Department for Work and Pensions' own Equality Impact Assessment that demonstrates the Bill's shortcomings in regards to children.  The hardest hit by the UK Government's proposals are likely to be households with four or more children, those from some BME communities, children living with kinship carers, children with disabilities and those with disabled parents. In short the groups most at risk of living in poverty to begin with.

"Our own assessment shows that the benefit cap would lead to homelessness, poor health and educational outcomes for children, as families living on low household incomes will need to divert money away from necessities for children's health and wellbeing such as heating, warm clothing, and nutritious food in order to cover their household costs.

"Children are rights-holders, and their rights are independent of those of their parents or carers. This principle is enshrined in domestic legislation, international human rights law and international treaties which the UK has signed-up to, including the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). As a result, children's rights must be taken into account in the drafting of all legislation that affects them. Article 4 of the UNCRC states that the Government must take "all appropriate legislative, administrative and other measures" to ensure the realisation of rights protected under the UNCRC, and must also apply "the maximum extent of their available resources" to this purpose.

"We believe the UK Government should respect its obligations under the UNCRC and recommend that the government reconsider the planned cap on benefit payments because of the pernicious impact it will have on families."