LETTER: Children in need concern

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Children in Need 2016 has taken place recently and for many years, through the generosity of ordinary people, has raised millions of pounds to support projects helping children in Britain.

From 7th November, government figures show that up to 244,000 children are likely to be affected by cuts to the Housing Benefit Cap. Housing Benefit - which goes directly to landlords- is being cut which means that tenants will have to pay more in rent. According to the government’s own Impact Assessment, signed by the relevant minister, Lord Freud, this means that tenants will have to pay, on average £60 a week more per household.

The Impact Assessment states that 61% of Housing Benefit claimants affected by the changes will be single women and that most of those single women will be lone parents. It also states that twice as many children are likely to be affected as adults. The only way (apart from trying to move somewhere with a lower rent) this situation can be avoided, according to the Impact Assessment, is for the parent(s) to ‘do the right thing’ and move into employment or increase their work to at least sixteen hours a week. No-one disputes that it is right and proper for people to work and pay their way if they are capable of doing so. However, children, who have no choice, will be adversely affected if their parent(s) do not or cannot make that choice - or if they fail to find work.

These children are our future: how can they achieve their potential if they arrive at school hungry day after day?

Yes, ‘People [should]do the right thing and move into work’. But reality is complicated. These people are parents and, even assuming work is available, childcare for pre-school children will need to be found and paid for.

In Crawley, this national measure, by the government’s own estimate, - and largely confirmed by officers at the borough council - will impact upon about three hundred households. Any ‘absence of behavioural responses’ by the parent(s) in these households will directly push their children towards or into poverty, whoever is to blame for this. Officers at the borough bouncil are doing their best to minimise the impact on the affected households but staffing and financial resources are limited and there are other calls on any ‘discretionary’ funds available. Inevitably, it seems, there will be innocent children who will suffer: children who may attend local playgroups or schools, who may be neighbours, friends...

Yes, there are still children in need and the numbers of them will be increasing as we move into 2017 - as a direct result of Conservative government policy.

Councillor Geraint

Thomas

Crawley Borough Council

(Labour, Northgate Ward)

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