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

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Tyler of Enfield Baroness Tyler of Enfield Liberal Democrat 9:15 pm, 23rd January 2012

My Lords, I support the amendment that has just been moved so powerfully and comprehensively by the noble Baroness, Lady Drake. Having myself moved a similar amendment in Committee, I do not wish to go over the same ground that she has, save to say that there is a powerful case for providing an exemption from the cap for grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles and other family members who are raising vulnerable children because of very difficult family circumstances such as parental death, alcohol or substance misuse, imprisonment, severe illness, disability, abuse or neglect-the list goes on and on. Children living in the care of family and friends are often exceptionally vulnerable and have already suffered huge disadvantages and traumas in life.

As the noble Baroness clearly put across, one consequence of the benefit cap that I am sure is unintended is that fewer family and friends may step forward as carers in these difficult circumstances, and the cost to the state, particularly if more children go into care as a result, would be considerable. To amplify that point, I shall mention a few statistics that the Family Rights Group was good enough to share with me from an internet survey that it has just conducted-the largest survey of family and friends carers in the UK-with 500 respondents. The survey's findings show that: more than 16 per cent of respondents were raising three or more children, both kinship children and their own; 11 per cent of respondents were in private rented accommodation and 28 per cent in housing association or council rented accommodation; 29 per cent received housing benefit; 31 per cent had given up work permanently when taking on kinship children while 14 per cent had given up work temporarily; and 20 per cent of the children that they were raising had previously been in an unrelated foster care placement. I think this puts some flesh on the bones of this particular issue.

I know that my noble friend the Minister was very sympathetic in Committee to this issue and has written in very sympathetic terms to the charities which are most involved. I very much hope that he has some reassuring words to give us tonight.