Report (1st Day)

Part of Pensions Bill – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 24th February 2014.

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Photo of Baroness Hollis of Heigham Baroness Hollis of Heigham Labour 5:30 pm, 24th February 2014

My Lords, I understand the Minister’s support for grand schemes. We will see whether the grand scheme of universal credit, which I support, will deliver what he hopes that it does—and I hope it does. But here we are dealing with a situation in which we have kinship carers and widowed parents, and we may be talking subsequently about women experiencing distress in domestic abuse situations, and the Minister is trying to make something coherent. He is trying to fit them into one common mould, but he does not have to. He may come up with appropriate and different solutions for different groups because, as he himself said in his reply, every family is different and may need different help. This amendment would allow him to do precisely that.

The amendment does not cut across any review in any way, any more than his 12-month provision for kinship carers does. It seeks only to protect a small, identifiable and precise group from additional pressures of work conditionality at no cost at all and at a time when they and their children are most deeply distressed. I do not think that they should be put on the back burner for a review that may or may not deliver what I hope the House will think is the right path to take. If the review goes ahead and the Minister does not need the amendment, as it is permissive, he does not need to draw on it. If his review falters, which I think it will because he is asking too much of it, the amendment would give protection to some of the most vulnerable people in our country at the time of their deepest grief.

It is very simple. The amendment is permissive but says that we recognise the situation of widows and widowed parents and will give them, under the new system, one year of bereavement benefits and payments. This amendment asks for that one year, which we recognise is the period of most grief and distress, and that we should also not apply the pressure of work conditionality. This House has always looked out for widows and children, and I am asking the House to do it again today. The amendment is permissive and cost-free, and the Minister can build on it if he wishes to do the review. It is just a small safety net of help for grieving children and their grieving parent. I beg your Lordships to protect them tonight. I wish to test the opinion of the House.