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Rethink of benefit eligibility criteria sparks fresh fears for children

By Neil Puffett

| 23 April 2012

Changes to the way entitlement to benefits, including dental care and free prescriptions, is calculated could have a detrimental impact on children living in poorer families, a charity has warned.

Two young people in deprived area

Family Action is calling for universal provision of certain benefits. Image: Arlen Connelly

Due to the planned introduction of universal credit, many of the current eligibility criteria for so-called “passported benefits” are under review by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Passported benefits are a variety of benefits and entitlements that claimants become eligible for when they are awarded tax credits. Each passported benefit has a different criteria and income threshold.

The charity Family Action warned that families could miss out on vital benefits if the introduction of universal credit changes existing entitlements to support. 

Rhian Beynon, head of policy and campaigns at Family Action, said that the loss of free dental care for parents, for example, could have a serious knock-on effect on children.

“One thing that encourages low-income parents to care about their children’s teeth, for which treatment is free, is to offer them free access to dental care as well," she said. “If they don’t seek the help themselves they become less conscious of their children’s needs.”

She added: "There are quite a few families with complex needs who have mental health issues or learning difficulties and there is going to be a whole issue about how those groups navigate the new system."

The charity is now calling for passported benefits to be provided to all parents on universal credit, something Beynon argued is affordable, given how much it could cost to introduce new systems for determining eligibility for individual benefits.

A spokesman for the DWP said a decision is yet to be made on how the introduction of universal credit will affect entitlement to passported benefits.

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