Welfare cap could discourage couples from living together

Young parents who do not live together will be less likely to set up a family home as result of controversial welfare reforms, The Children’s Society has warned.

Under government proposals, a £500 a week cap on benefits will be introduced for each household.

This has led to fears that couples expecting a child but living apart may decide not to co-habit because their benefits could drop markedly.

In February, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith outlined plans to give couples a £500 a year cash windfall as an incentive to live together in an attempt to promote stable families, but policy adviser at The Children’s Society Sam Royston said a significant “couple penalty” will still exist.

“Ninety five per cent of households affected by the cap will have children living in them,” he said. “Benefit payments could be reduced by couples living together. It seems so strange because the whole perspective of government policy seems to aim to provide incentives to keep families together.”

Anne Marie Carrie, chief executive at Barnardo’s, has called on those in the sector to join forces to lobby the government on the implications of planned changes.

“We need to come together and use our experience and expertise to inform policy on these unintended consequences,” she said.

Earlier this month, children’s minister Sarah Teather voiced “extreme worries” over the cap. The warnings come after Prime Minister David Cameron called on society to give absent fathers a “tough time”.

The Welfare Reform Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords on 13 September.


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