Government suffers another defeat on welfare reform plans

 

The Government today suffered another embarrassing defeat in the House of Lords on its controversial welfare reform plans.

Peers voted by 246 votes to 230, majority 16, against plans to cut payments to families with disabled children.

It is the seventh defeat peers have inflicted on the Welfare Reform Bill, which is set to clear the Upper House tonight.

The most prominent showdowns came over the Government's £26,000-a-year benefits cap and plans to charge parents to access the Child Support Agency.

And today peers backed a third reading amendment put forward by independent crossbench peer Baroness Meacher to limit cuts to top-up payments made to the parents of disabled children.

The Government wants to introduce a slight increase to the weekly rate for the most disabled children, taking it to £77, while halving the lower rate to £27.

Ministers argue the money saved will be spent on providing additional support to the most disabled adults.

But Lady Meacher said the Government's plans would mean families with a child on the lower rate losing £1,400 a year.

Her successful amendment specifies that the lower rate must be at least two-thirds of the higher rate.

She said the Government aimed for the proposals to be "revenue neutral" and told peers: "The proposition here is that ministers revisit the relationship between the new levels of disability addition for children and allocate resources to adults when new money allows."

She warned that there would be a "cliff edge" between the two levels of the benefit and said there were children who were "very severely disabled" who would not qualify for the higher amount.

"One hundred thousand or so children affected by this loss of benefit are very likely to live in poverty and recent research by the Children's Society shows that once the additional costs of disability are accounted for, four in every 10 disabled are actually living in poverty, so a loss of some income really does matter."

Labour's Baroness Wilkins said the Government had argued it was working within a fixed financial envelope and could not retain the rates for children if it was going to increase the rates for adults.

But she described the situation as "robbing poor Peter to pay poor Paul".

And Labour's Lord Peston said the Government's plans were "unethical" and said welfare reform minister Lord Freud "should be simply ashamed of himself".

Tory Baroness Browning also called for the Government to rethink the issue.

She said: "What do we mean by disability lite, because that is what we are really talking about? It might be presumed it is like comparing a light head cold to a really nasty bout of flu, but it is not."

And she highlighted the effect on the children who will "lose this huge sum of money".

Referring to people on the autistic spectrum, she said: "If you consider them as being disabled lite in childhood a huge proportion of them will be the big bills to the public purse later on in adolescence and adulthood."

But Liberal Democrat Lord German said the relationship between the two rates should not be "set in aspic" in legislation as if further changes were needed in the future it would create difficulties.

For the Opposition, Lord McKenzie of Luton backed the amendment as a "clear marker on the issue of proportionality" and warned against the "downgrading" of the needs of disabled children.

Lord Freud denied the issue was about "deficit reduction", insisting: "Every single penny of the monies are being recycled to increase support for both severely disabled children and severely disabled adults.

"None of the money we are talking about here is going to the Treasury."

Lord Freud said the aim was to "smooth the cliff edge" of support for disabled youngsters moving into adulthood and urged peers to look at the overall impact of the introduction of universal credit.

Even though a family might get a little less on one component, he said, it did not mean they would get less overall.

Contrary to some estimates put forward by peers the impact of universal credit was to make families much better off.

"We are managing to put £4 billion a year into the pockets of the poorest people through universal credit."

Under the reforms the number of disabled children living in "relative poverty will be negligible".

Lord Freud said concern seemed to boil down to "discomfort" over the dividing line between the definition of severely disabled and disabled.

Urging peers to not press the amendment to a vote, Lord Freud said they had sent a "strong message" to ministers and offered to review this issue.

But Lady Meacher said thousands of families with disabled children were desperately worried and she owed it to them to force a vote.

PA

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£120 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: The Humanities Department of this ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Music Teacher

£120 - £180 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Newham Position: Music Start dat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Sutton Position: Science teacher S...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee