The Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England has issued an assessment of the impact of the Welfare Reform Bill which highlights the risks to children’s rights.
The purpose of the assessment is to identify the likely impact of the provisions on the promotion and realisation of children’s rights set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law; and other international human rights obligations.
In its paper the OCCE predicts that the proposed cap on total benefits of £26,000 per annum for a family household and £18,200 for a single person, and the absorption of housing benefits with universal credit are likely to lead to:
- An increase in child poverty, with associated poor health, educational and other outcomes.
- Children losing their home as a result of it becoming unaffordable.
- The incentivising of family breakdown: The benefit cap could provide an incentive to family breakdown for some families for whom establishment as two separate households would allow for a greater overall amount of benefit income.
- Disproportionate impact on children from some BME groups.
- Disproportionate impact on disabled children and children of disabled parents.
- Disproportionate impact on children living with kinship carers.
Responding to the assessment by the OCCE, Enver Solomon, Policy Director at The Children’s Society, said:
‘The welfare reforms will have a dramatic impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children, forcing many of them into greater hardship and damaging their futures. The cap on overall benefit entitlements will affect 210,000 children and could make as many as 80,000 homeless. It could also act as a driver for family break-up.
‘The Children’s Commissioner has sent a clear message to Government and parliament. The reforms, to be debated in the Lords later this month, are in conflict with our children’s rights obligations and need to be urgently reconsidered. Ministers must amend the legislation if they want to meet their commitment to protecting the rights of children within policy.’