Welfare Reform Bill — Report (5th Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 23rd January 2012.

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Photo of Lord Best Lord Best Crossbench 9:15 pm, 23rd January 2012

My Lords, I am sure talk of further Divisions will be unnecessary at this late hour. I am very grateful to many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Drake, for supporting my amendment on the 26-week period of grace. She made the point that we cannot possibly require behavioural change from people who are already desperately seeking work, which is what we want them to do. I was also grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Stoneham of Droxford, in backing this amendment. People with no history of benefit dependency should surely be given a period of grace to find work.

The noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, made the point that perhaps 52 weeks would be better than 26 as a period to allow people to get back into work, especially given the statistics we heard-that 50 per cent of people who go on to jobseeker's allowance find a job within six months, but if we want to get 90 per cent back into work it may take a year in the current job market.

This remains a very important ingredient in the use of the cap. The Minister has promised that finding a solution is a priority and that a period of grace to ease the transition is one way of handling this, but there may be an even cleverer way. The Minister says that the issue still needs to be looked at very carefully but is confident that a way will be found. I must take this on trust, but with the expectation that there will indeed be measures that handle this transition and satisfy the House when the regulations, although those cannot be amended, are brought before us.

I am also grateful for noble Lords' support on the amendment to make sure that temporary accommodation does not become a Catch-22 situation whereby homeless people are sent somewhere by the council, only to find when they get there that they are not able to pay the rent because the benefit cap has kicked in. That would be a calamity for them. I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, for weighing in on that one and to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, for asking for further clarification.

The Minister explained that we need to find a way, and he is confident we shall find one, of handling this exemption or exclusion, or in some way treating temporary accommodation differently and in a satisfactory way. I trust him to be as good as his word and I have pleasure in withdrawing these amendments.

Amendment 60 withdrawn.

Amendment 60A not moved.

Amendment 60B

Moved by Baroness Drake

60B: Clause 94, page 64, line 5, at end insert-

"( ) Regulations under this section must provide for an exemption from the application of the benefit cap for family and friends carers where-

(a) the child comes to live with the carer as a result of plans made within a section 47 of the Children Act 1989 child protection enquiry or following enquiries under section 53 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and the local authority states that the child cannot remain with the parents in the current circumstances;

(b) a child comes to live with the carer following a section 37 of the Children Act 1989 investigation and the local authority states that the child cannot remain with the parents in the current circumstances;

(c) a carer has secured a residence order, including a residence order under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, or special guardianship order to avoid a child being looked after, and there is professional evidence of the impairment of the parents' ability to care for the child;

(d) the carer has a residence order, including a residence order under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, or special guardianship order arising out of care proceedings;

(e) the carer has a residence order, including a residence order under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, or special guardianship order following the accommodation of a child;

(f) the carer has a residence order, including a residence order under section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 or special guardianship order following the death or serious illness of a parent;

(g) the carer is an approved kinship carer under Part V of the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009."