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By Debbie le Quesne

Benefit caps: Are we dishonouring the honourable?

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The government’s proposed benefit cap will apply to careres who look after their disabled children.

And the result will inevitably mean some will be forced to move out of their home or put their child into care, according to a piece in The Guardian.

As I understand it, ministers had said disabled people were exempt from the £500-a-week benefit cap that is due to come into force in April.

But in politics nothing is constant and now they have now accepted that if a parent is still looking after a disabled child after they reach adulthood, even if the child’s mental age is as low as eight, the parent and the child will be treated separately, and the parent will be subject to the cap.

The news broke in In the Commons when the Work and Pensions minister Esther McVey said: “In practice most carers will be exempt [from the cap] because their partner or child is in receipt of disability living allowance.”

She was then challenged by Labour MP Andrew Gwynne to look at the rules again. He said: “Close reading of the regulations indicates that a household comprising parents and a disabled adult dependent receiving disability living allowance will not be exempt from the cap, despite the minister’s promises that they would be.”

McVey then admitted: “Should there be another adult in the house, that is then a separate household, so both have to be assessed separately.”

Already letters are being sent out, so the government is acting speedily.

The newspaper cites the case of Jacqueline Smirl from London, who has been told she is to lose roughly £80 a week even though she looks after her 20-year-old son, who is in need of 24-hour care and has the mental age of an eight-year-old owing to autism.

She argues that because she looks after her son, she is saving the government money.

Ms Smirl has lived in Maida Vale since 1984. She lives in a £400-a-week private rented property and says her son is willing to move to a council property but none are available, forcing her either to leave the area or to put her son into care.

She said the threat of disruption to her already difficult life was putting intense pressure on her and she was receiving counselling.

The anomaly appears to be striking – if she were looking after a partner, spouse or “child” she would be exempt from the cap.

Surely these benefit caps were aimed at getting people back into the jobs market. But this poor woman already does a 24/7 job for a ‘wage‘ which must be a saving to government.

Another observer notes: “Cost of rent at £400PW is £20,800 PA.
Cost of Carers’ Allowance at £55PW is £2,860 PA.
Cost of DLA at the highest rates £131PW is £6,838PA.

“Total – £30,498PA. Plus a bit more for council tax, probably.

“Cost of full-time residential care £150,000 to £200,000PA.

“This mother is SAVING the taxpayer at least £120,000 every single year; like millions of other selfless individuals all over the UK.”

Benefit changes like these are never going to be popular, but I can’t help feeling it would be cheaper to let this mother do the caring which is driven by her love for her son.”

Surely these are the very people we should be honouring and supporting?

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