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Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 20th July 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) 6:02 pm, 20th July 2015

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. For the first time, the majority of children below the poverty line—quite a significant majority, as she says—are in working families. That is a reflection of how things have gone over the past few years.

To avoid hardship and unfairness with the reduction of the benefit cap, we will press for some people to be protected from the cap. My hon. Friend Barbara Keeley referred to the position of carers. Under the current cap, carers who live with the person for whom they are caring are exempt, yet 8% of those affected by the cap are carers. That is because carers who do not live with the person they are caring for are included in the cap. We want that to change. We think that those with the very youngest children should not be affected by the cap. We also want protection for those affected by domestic violence. As it stands, those who have been affected by domestic violence can be exempted from job-seeking requirements at the jobcentre, but if they are living in supported accommodation a cap will apply. The amendments that we will publish tonight would exempt them along the same lines as the current exemption in jobcentres.

It is absolutely vital to keep the implementation and the impact of the benefit cap policy under scrutiny. There must be jobs for people to move into and childcare available to help them. We need to be vigilant against increases in homelessness and child poverty. We also need to make sure that the policy does not have knock-on consequences for councils and others which mean that it ends up costing more than it saves. If the Bill goes ahead, we will seek to add a requirement for the Secretary of State to report to Parliament within a year on the impact of the policy.