Observation Peers will press for changes to plans for a £26,000 cap on the benefits families can receive when the measure is debated in the House of Lords later. To do this article justice I have included see below:
Church of England bishops and some Liberal Democrats will push for child benefit to be excluded from the cap – so as not to penalise large families.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith says there are already exemptions for disabled people and those in work.
The annual cap would come into force in England, Scotland and Wales from 2013.
The government was defeated three times on votes on other parts of its flagship Welfare Reform Bill two weeks ago.
But Mr Duncan Smith has said he is determined his reforms will get through Parliament – and defeats will be overturned when the legislation returns to the Commons.
There have been suggestions that some “transitional arrangements” could be introduced for the cap – which applies to working age benefits.
BBC News Channel chief political correspondent Norman Smith said it could mean giving families some leeway – possibly a period of grace to find a new home – when the cap is introduced in April 2013.
On Monday the government revised up its estimate of how many households would be affected – from 50,000 to 67,000, although the amount of money they would lose was revised down from £93-a-week to £83-a-week.
The cap would be £500 a week, equivalent to the average wage earned by working households, after tax.
Mr Duncan Smith said most of those affected were people who had never worked – and had no incentive to do so because they were living in expensive properties which they would have to move out of if they lost their housing benefit entitlement.
He rejected suggestions children could be pushed into poverty by the cap – saying that assumed families would not move house.
And he denied that some families would be left homeless, saying there was “no reason” why a family on £26,000 a year would not be able to find suitable accommodation.
The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, has put down an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill that would exclude child benefit from the overall cap.
He said: “Child benefit is a universal benefit. I believe that it’s wrong to see it as being a welfare benefit. It’s a benefit which is there for all children, for the bringing up of all children and to say that the only people who cannot have child benefit are those whose welfare benefits have been capped seems to me to be a quite extraordinary argument.”
And the former Bishop of Hulme, the Right Reverend Stephen Lowe, told the BBC that some parents “perhaps are not particularly capable of working” but had large families.
“The fact that child benefit, which is meant to be attached to the number of children, is being discounted in relation to this particular £26,000 is actually going to damage those children’s welfare and put potentially another 100,000 children into poverty.”
But Mr Duncan Smith said excluding child benefit would make the cap “pointless” – as it would raise the amount families could receive to an average of about £50,000 a year. He said he wanted to be “fair” to taxpayers on low wages, who were supporting families in homes they themselves could not afford.
He has admitted his plans could face defeat in the Lords on Monday.
He told the BBC: “We have a year before this comes in. We now know exactly which families [the cap will affect], what their size is, where they live.
“It’s not about punishing them. It’s about saying ‘Look, if you live in a house that you couldn’t afford if you were in work, then you’re disincentivised from taking work’.
“We want people to find work. We want them to be in work.”
Mr Duncan Smith also said the public was “overwhelmingly in favour” of the cap.
Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown has said he will vote against the coalition’s plans for a benefits cap, unless there are measures to cushion the impact on those affected.
Labour has said it will not vote against the cap but it has put down an amendment proposing that those at risk of losing their homes should be exempt.
Shadow employment minister Stephen Timms told the BBC: “We think that the cap is a good idea, we think the principle is right. But we are very worried about the way the government is going to introduce it, which we think is going to lead to a large number of people losing their homes and having to be rehoused by their local council, ending up costing more.”
The changes would affect England, Wales and Scotland. Northern Ireland has its own social security legislation, but it is expected that what is approved at Westminster will be introduced there too.
A small number of provisions will apply directly to Northern Ireland, regarding the abolition of benefits, state pension credit, tax fraud investigation and information sharing about tax fraud.
I look into my crystal ball again what do I see oh wait this coalition are doing their best to out do each other if its not David Cameron vs Nick Clegg then its Conservative vs Fibdems
Born in the NHS and very proud of it. There is cross party support against the reform of NHS.
Whilst traveling to London I was reminiscing on my last visit to the Caribbean seeing a crowd of children and their parents trying to get food and they have no child, disabilities or care allowance let alone income support.
The hard truth is most children do not chose where they live. This coalition government hides behind the Big Society to implement cuts and caps on benefits while their partner the Fibdems turn a blind eye to give way for David Cameron and his cronies to dismantle the welfare state.
If people who do not go out to vote then talk about it was hard under Labour. Hey people wake up this coalition is the nasty parties they are making it hard on the Welfare Reform Bill.
Most people will agree that that changes are needed to all the benefit systems. Yet the coalition will continue to say that they inherit a deficit from Labour. Therefore we have no choice to put a cap or cut child benefit to appeal to the wealthy to gain their vote.
In truth nobody elected a coalition to run the country. To a extend the media will have take some of the blame for their part in calling for a coalition.
It’s the people who are on low and middle incomes that suffers. Child benefit is a point of need not for the few.
Now there is concerns mounting from an angry medical profession, ministers seem to be staging another tactical retreat in their efforts to force key elements of Andrew Lansley’s vicious Health and Social Care Bill through the House of Lords
Bizarrely, the Lords seems to have become the last bastion of democracy after MPs failed to mount much of a fight.
A Health Service Journal exclusive has revealed that the Conservatives in the Lords, led by Earl Howe, are now offering a new set of concessions on the Bill. This is because a substantial number of Lords are known to be willing to reject key clauses, including Lansley’s attempt to scrap the duty of the secretary of state to provide comprehensive and universal services.
It’s not clear whether this latest formula, which still fails to reinstate the previous clause one of the National Health Service Act as amended in 2006, will meet the objections of Labour, Lib Dem and cross-bench peers.
Another concession that has been offered would require the health secretary to “have regard to the NHS constitution.”
But 95 hours of Lords debate in 15 sessions have so far made few significant changes to a Bill that is fundamentally flawed and focused above all on opening up a competitive market in healthcare and new opportunities for private for-profit providers to scoop up lucrative work, while leaving the costly and awkward services to the remains of the NHS.
One encouraging sign is that at the 11th hour the Labour Party seems to have finally woken up on this – at least in the Lords.
And shadow health secretary Andy Burnham is at least talking a good fight, although this resistance is a stark contrast with Ed Miliband. He and his wretched followers are running up the white flag on defence of public services.
Labour is now working with allies in the Lords to demand more changes on a range of issues that the feeble Commons scrutiny barely touched, including competition law, the powers and duties of the regulator Monitor, public health and “Health Watch,” the latest ludicrous attempt to derail public accountability for NHS services.
Another late-developing conflict is NHS facilities being used for private medicine.
Just before Christmas it was revealed that the Bill would allow foundation trusts to make up to 49 per cent of their income from private medicine.
Believe it or not, the 49 per cent figure – suggested in the Lords by Lib Dem Shirley Williams – was regarded by the government as a concession from Lansley’s initial proposal to scrap the limit altogether.
But it would still open the way to a massive expansion of private work at a time when foundations will find NHS funding ever harder to obtain, as the £20 billion cash squeeze tightens year by year.
Lansley, for fear that it will tilt the balance further against him and the Bill, is still adamantly refusing to allow MPs or Lords to see the Department of Health’s “risk register” on the Bill, which the Information Commissioner has twice instructed him to publish.
But a leaked paper at the end of last year confirmed critics’ warnings that, far from handing power to GPs, the government wants private management firms to take the reins of running the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
Just in case anyone thought that the new structure would offer any genuine local control, the leaked document confirms that the CCGs themselves will be far bigger – and therefore far less “local” – than early proposals suggested.
Miserly management allowances of just £25 per head of catchment population mean that the smaller CCGs would not be organisationally viable, and a process of forced merger is now taking shape.
Over 50 CCGs have already merged into larger groups, while the numbers of the bigger groups covering populations over 500,000 have doubled since March.
Size does matter, and the direction is upwards.
Even the small-catchment Wirral NHS Alliance CCG, which includes a leading pro-reform GP who was the national lead on commissioning for the Department of Health, is being refused authorisation unless it merges to form a larger unit.
The BMA is urging GPs to federate into CCGs covering between one million and five million, and the Royal College of GPs is also urging mergers, despite the obvious loss of local voice and control and the certainty that the larger organisations will be run by a bureaucracy of managers and not in any meaningful way controlled by GPs.
This process of merger is being matched by the service providers, with increasingly desperate mergers welding together struggling and financially challenged NHS trusts regardless of geography and with dire consequences for many local services and for accountability to local communities.
The message is clear and consistent – despite Lansley’s rhetoric, everything happening is serving to widen and deepen health inequalities, extend the postcode lottery and ride roughshod over the needs and views of local patients.
Despite his ridiculous claim to have support from doctors, the GPs who are supposed to be “empowered” and “liberated” by the Bill are rejecting it and refusing to get involved
But while the unions stand largely passive on the Bill, opposition among the medical profession is still mounting.
The latest, biggest – and final – poll of the Royal College of GPs showed a staggering 98 per cent wanted the college to work with other royal colleges to get the Bill withdrawn. Just 5 per cent saw the Bill as beneficial.
And public health doctors, who gathered over 400 signatures for a public call for action against the Bill before Christmas, have continued to organise and agitate with a busy email list of 500 health professionals and academics actively supporting.
Hospital doctors too have been increasingly concerned and this month saw the heroic “Bevan’s run” by two hospital consultants from Middlesbrough from Cardiff to the Department of Health HQ in London to focus anger and action against the Bill and publicise the issue to a wider public.
As the runners recuperate and the battle lines form up in the Lords, there is still a chance for local meetings to reach out to rally local communities against the Bill that could spell the end of our National Health Service.
The Lords is expected to return to the Bill in the second week of February.
Burnham should be pressing local Labour parties, MPs and councillors to pull out all the stops and work with pensioners, health unions and trades councils to call urgent public meetings to sound the warning, publicise what’s wrong with the Bill and demand its withdrawal and the publication of the suppressed risk register.
Meanwhile the BMA, which seems prepared to call on GPs to withdraw from commissioning as part of their fight on pensions, should consider withdrawing anyway, to torpedo a Bill that most GPs want withdrawn.
Why don’t the health unions encourage them to do so by offering support? Why don’t they at least do something tangible to mobilise their members against the Bill?
It’s high time we saw some unity in action instead of the united inaction that has been the norm for 12 months since Lansley published the Bill.
Damage has been done, but the Bill is not a done deal.
Together doctors, health workers and the public can still stop Lansley’s Health Bill – and it would be the ideal antidote to Miliband’s deadly defeatism and the best way to launch a fightback against hospital cuts and closures.