Welfare Reform Bill — Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 14th December 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Grey-Thompson Baroness Grey-Thompson Crossbench 9:00 pm, 14th December 2011

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and to look specifically at the removal of the severe disability premium and the effect that it will have on young carers who are looking after a lone parent who is disabled or two parents who are both disabled.

The severe disability premium is really important in supporting young carers. Children who are still in full-time education cannot claim carer's allowance, but many play an invaluable role in supporting disabled parents. However, if there is no other adult in the household, and no one claiming carer's allowance, the family can benefit from the extra financial help offered by the SDP.

The abolition of the SDP will cost families with a young carer up to £55.30 per week, which is £2,876 per year. This cost could be equivalent to 20 per cent of household income after housing costs. The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that around 25,000 lone parents are in receipt of severe disability premium. That is 25,000 families with a disabled adult, in receipt of the mid or high-rate care component of DLA, but with no adult either in the household or receiving carer's allowance to look after them, and with children in the household.

Many of these children are likely to be doing a substantial amount of caring for the parent, but this measure could force them to have to take on additional caring and household responsibilities because the family just cannot afford to pay for help. This is likely to put additional pressures on their children to make up for this loss of additional care. This is happening at time when support services for young carers are being cut back, according to a recent survey by Action for Children. The charity surveyed 23 of its young carer projects between May and June this year. Findings reveal that almost half of services questioned reported a rise in the number of children on waiting lists and had seen an increase in the needs of young carers.

The Children's Society, which works with young carers, gave the following example of the pressure that some of these children face and why they should not be pushed into even tighter financial circumstances. Kelly's mum, Jenny, became ill about 10 years ago when she was only 8 years old. An aggressive illness hospitalised Jenny, and has since entirely paralysed her down one side. After staying with relatives for several months while her mum was in hospital, Kelly was able to move back in to live with her mum from the age of nine. Since then she has cared for her mum non-stop. She makes meals and does the washing and cleaning. She said early on that she could only make simple dinners such as scrambled eggs on toast, but she has learnt quickly, and she has had to. She does not do it alone; she has a rota of professional carers who come to help out day to day, but they cannot do everything, and they do not stay overnight.

About three years ago, the year before Kelly was due to sit her GCSEs, Jenny became extremely ill for a while. Kelly had to get up around four times a night to help her out. Naturally, she was exhausted, dragging herself to bed as soon as she got in from school. Jenny currently receives the severe disability premium, meaning that she and Kelly are just one of 25,000 families with a disabled single parent. They will presumably be covered by transitional protection, unless Jenny's re-assessment for ESA from IB is viewed as a change of circumstances. It would be useful if the Minister would be able to clarify that. However, families who find themselves in a similar position after the measure is brought in are likely to be left £55 a week worse off as a result of losing this premium.