Teather reveals concerns over benefits cap

Neil Puffett
Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Plans to cap benefits for couples at 500 a week are "extremely worrying", children's minister Sarah Teather has said.

Teather: deep concerns about the level the cap is set at. Image: DfE
Teather: deep concerns about the level the cap is set at. Image: DfE

Speaking at a Family & Parenting Institute conference in London today (13 July), the Lib Dem MP said she sees the introduction of the universal credit as being a long-term step change in the battle against child poverty – incentivising many to take up work.

But she went on to reveal deep concerns about plans to cap benefits so that couples can receive £500 a week at most.

"I’m extremely worried about the level the cap is set at," Teather said. "It is one thing to have a system to lift families out of poverty but it is another to have a system where 50,000 families are being [badly] affected.

"There is a lot of detail that needs to be got right on this policy and I think that is a view shared across government. This is something I take very seriously and am actively engaged on as children’s minister."

Teather has previously defended the changes. In November last year she said the government's measures would help drive down market rents in the long-term.

But opposition to the reforms has been steadily growing. In May, the government was called on to exempt families with child protection concerns from welfare caps.

Labour MP Kate Green argued that the measure could force more families to move to areas where rents are cheaper, making it harder for social workers to support families and to monitor the welfare of children.

Responding to Teather’s latest comments, Rhian Beynon, head of policy at charity Family Action, said: "We’re pleased that Sarah Teather has listened to us and other organisations in the Welfare Rights Consortium regarding our concerns about the benefit cap.

"We’ve been warning that this measure is ill thought out and it will impact negatively on children and families. We’re really concerned that amongst other things the cap will create housing transience and put children on the child protection register at risk. We hope the minister will now push colleagues in the Lords to put safeguards in place."

The Welfare Reform Bill is due for its second reading at the House of Lords next Tuesday (19 July).

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