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In Grand Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, held us spellbound with a cautionary tale of what happened when he was a junior Minister of higher education, and money intended for Liverpool Polytechnic was purloined by Liverpool council for housing. It clearly impressed the Minister. More recent experience is that of Supporting People-a fund designed to help vulnerable groups. Since the ring-fence was removed from that, overall spending on Supporting People has been cut by more than 10 percentage points more than the settlement received by local authorities for the purpose. That is an existing budget; the pressure to cut a wholly new budget will surely be greater.

We should listen to what local authorities themselves have to say. Recently published DWP research with authorities addressed this issue. While admittedly some authorities were unenthusiastic about ring-fencing-perhaps seeing tying their hands in that way as being like turkeys voting for Christmas-a number were,

It is just such fears that this amendment is designed to allay.

Both the present and previous Social Fund Commissioners have expressed similar anxieties. What will happen to the woman who has fled domestic violence and who needs to turn a house into a home for her family, or the disabled person anxious to remain in her home but without the means to do so, or the ex-prisoner who needs to set up home? The potential consequences have been spelt out by organisations such as Citizens Advice and Family Action: greater reliance on overstretched charities, on food banks and on high-cost lenders, as the Joint Committee on Human Rights also warned in its report on the Bill, or simply going without, with a potential risk to health or safety.



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A child rights impact assessment of the Bill, just published by the office of the Children's Commissioner, suggests that such consequences mean that the clauses in the Bill abolishing the Social Fund could be in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on a number of counts. Can the Minister-wherever he is-please tell the House what account has been taken of the convention and what the Government's response is to this advice? I am sure that your Lordships' House would not want to agree to a breach of obligations under the convention.

The case for ring-fencing was made from all Benches in Grand Committee. In response, the Minister acknowledged the strength of feeling and indeed accepted the spirit of the amendment when he said:

"It is quite clear that we need to make sure, if we are putting money out for vulnerable people, that it goes to vulnerable people and is not diverted elsewhere".-[Official Report, 10/11/11; col. GC 140.]

I could not have put it better myself.

On the other hand, he argued against ring-fencing. He contended that ring-fencing would restrict innovative thinking and limit local authorities' ability to devise schemes that best address the specific needs in their respective areas. However, ring-fencing does not prevent innovative schemes; it simply prevents local authorities using the money for some other purpose entirely.

The Minister promised to reflect on the arguments put in Committee. I am sure that all noble Lords will be delighted if he has come up with a solution to the dilemma in which he found himself-that of accepting the spirit of ring-fencing but not the legislative means of achieving it. If your Lordships' House should pass this amendment, it would not cost the Government an additional penny, which should be music to the ears of the government Benches. On the contrary, it would help to ensure that the money voted by Parliament was spent on safeguarding the health and well-being of the vulnerable people for whom it was intended. I beg to move.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I support the amendment. When I first read the Bill, it had been my intention to put down an amendment to try to remove the clauses dealing with the Social Fund. Clauses 69 to 72 outline the abolition of the discretionary Social Fund, including community care grants and crisis loans. As we have heard from my noble friend Lady Lister, the Government expect these responsibilities to be undertaken by local authorities.

We are dealing here with quite desperate people. The funds provide assistance for people at the very end of their tether. They have no one to turn to and nowhere else to go. The problem is that local authorities are now under considerable pressure themselves. They are having to economise and there is no guarantee that the very poor people for whom the funds provided some form of immediate support will figure very high in the list of requirements so far as local authorities are concerned.

I did not process my amendment earlier but my fears are very well met in the amendment now before the House. As my noble friend indicated, it provides for ring-fencing to ensure that a local authority makes provision for the people already provided for by the

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Social Fund arrangements. There are many instances, as we are aware, of women facing domestic violence, which is rather horrifying. Much of it takes place within families, sometimes within immigrant families, and the women have absolutely nowhere to go. Some of the violence is unbelievably cruel and sometimes it surfaces in cases that eventually reach the courts. We have an obligation to ensure that people in such desperation have somewhere to turn.

There are other levels of deprivation and concern that have already been referred to, involving children, homeless people and those who have just been released from institutional care. They are people who have nowhere else to go and we have to provide that support for them. I very much hope that the Government will be persuaded to accept this amendment.

9.45 pm

Lord Blair of Boughton: My Lords, I am a Cross-Bencher who does not necessarily spend all day in this House but I have been here all day for this amendment because I have seen the effects of the Social Fund and on victims of domestic violence, in particular. The idea that we would allow the Social Fund to become a discretionary matter for local authorities is an abdication of our duties to the poor and the desperate. I very much support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister.

Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope: My Lords, I should like to make a contribution to the debate as someone who was happy to co-sponsor the amendment of my longstanding and noble friend Lady Lister.

This has happened partly because the department thought that the Social Fund was beginning to become too difficult to handle. I know that the current explanation is that it is all part of the localism agenda, but I do not believe that. The criticisms that have been well set out by my noble friend Lady Lister are all valid. They are concerns that I share. More than anything else, I am beginning to hear from my spies, who are everywhere, that local authorities are coming to arrangements-if I were them I would do the same-for benefits in kind with white goods providers and food banks, though not quite soup kitchens yet. The point that I am making is that there is no substitute in certain circumstances, when families are in crisis and people are at risk of prejudice to their health, to the availability of access to liquid cash. There is no substitute to get them out of the kind of classic crises, whether domestic violence or other things. They need hot money and they need it right now to get them into a place where they can become safer. No amount of ingenuity, local creativity, co-operation or anything else is a substitute for that. We are not safe in this House to devolve this money-I shall come on to how it will be devolved in a moment-without recognising the value to family households in crises of having access to cash.

There is a very important point for Parliament about the oversight of this money. As colleagues know, we have a sophisticated system. There is a Social Fund commissioner and a variety of excellent public servants have served in that office with distinction. They have overseen the independent review service and have provided extremely useful current advice, information and data

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that have helped to stay on top of some of the policy issues. All of that is being thrown to the winds. I deeply regret that and said so at some length in Committee. The work that the Social Fund commissioners did in the past will be missed. I can see no way that Parliament will be able to stay as closely in touch with developments in this important policy area under the regime proposed in the clause.

I have no confidence at all that we can be secure in the knowledge of what will happen in Scotland and Wales. The Government may be able to control to some extent the conditions and provisions under which local authorities in England and perhaps Wales-although I am not sure about Wales-will comply with these regulations. However, certainly in Scotland the money will be given to the Scottish Government, or will pass through the Scottish Government, and noble Lords may have noticed that arguments have started to mature north of the border that perhaps will knock relations between the Westminster and Scottish Governments temporarily out of kilter. My serious point is that there will be different legalities relating to the controls and dispositions that will be made by local authorities in England and north of the border. I have no way of knowing how the Government will handle that.

No additional cost is involved in the amendment. That is an important consideration, given our earlier debates. We had some good discussions on this in Committee and I, like the noble Baroness, thought we had got some constructive and seriously positive responses from the Minister. I simply want to know how Clause 69 in all its glory and with its 10 subsections will be translated into practice and implemented.

I assume that there will be further opportunities at the regulation-laying stage-assuming that we do not agree any of the amendments that I think are necessary to improve the Bill in this important area-when the powers and the money are transferred. The money is important because another unique aspect of the Social Fund is that it has loans that are repaid, and the repaid loans refurbish the resources available for further use by other clients at a later stage. I am not sure exactly what amount of money will be transferred. I am certainly not clear-and I do not think that anybody else is-about how it will be disposed of, in relation to who gets what and the disbursement formula that will be used to allocate money. I assume that it will be done on a basis of need, but I have no way of knowing what that is. If I have missed it, I would be very pleased to be pointed towards the work that the Government are doing.

This is a really important part of the Bill and the amendment is the very least that we should ask for. This House should say that whatever sum of money is available at the moment, it would not be safe for us to let it be devolved to local authorities. I am sure that they will do their best and I have nothing against them, but we must impose a condition that any moneys that are disposed of and devolved for that purpose must be devoted to that purpose and to no other.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I remember there being considerable concern in this area upstairs in Committee. Having listened to what the noble

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Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Turner, said, in particular about the plan in the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I think that there is a way of dealing with the situation. Some of the problems of exactly how it will be spread out and all the rest of it might need a little more administrative attention, but I think this is a satisfactory answer about what to do with this sum of money. I would back it like that. Let us end the argument.

The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: My Lords, it is often said that we read the world from the position we occupy in it. In particular, users of the Social Fund are unlikely to be very visible and able to hold local councils to account. Recent analysis of some 500 discretionary Social Fund applications has revealed that 12 per cent involved someone leaving institutional or residential care, 20 per cent involved someone who had experienced a period of homelessness and 8 per cent involved someone leaving prison. These groups are much less likely than others to be able to demonstrate local connections, and without crucial assistance from community care grants to buy essential items such as cooking equipment and bedding, they may struggle to sustain and maintain a home. That puts those who have been offenders at risk of reoffending or of moving back into temporary or institutional accommodation, which is far more costly and means they lose their newly found independence. The issue of vulnerable groups and local connection is recognised in housing legislation where people with no local connection must be assisted by the local authority to which they originally applied. I believe that similar provision should apply to protect such groups in the absence of a standard national Social Fund, especially as the Welfare Reform Bill also abolishes the independent review service that reviews refused Social Fund applications. I hope that we can take note of this amendment.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I, too, support my noble friend's amendment. The whole point about the Social Fund is that all the other elements in the social security system are nationally determined and demand-led-AME-led. The Social Fund has always represented an element of flexibility, of discretionary judgment, for those who do not fit tidily into categories and need only income. When, for example, people needed a modest amount of capital for a fridge, an oven or whatever, they could go to the Social Fund. If they needed to set up after a flood or a fire, they could go to the Social Fund in ways that you cannot cover within a national framework, except by a discretionary local grant.

That is fine, but the problem with the Government's current proposal to send it to local government is threefold. First, there will be no necessary standards across local government so that similar circumstances are met in similar ways by different local authorities. For good and for bad, there will be a postcode lottery, and we know that demand will almost certainly be greatest in some of the inner cities and least, perhaps, in some of the more prosperous suburbs. There will be no consistency of standards.

Secondly, when that happens, and in the absence of identified funds, people who need that money will go not just to payday loan companies, because they do

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not have the security, or to pawn shops but to the forms of debt that we are all appalled by. One of the very good things about the Social Fund is that repayment, with no more than £5 or £10 per week of your income going out, is effectively interest-free. By pulling the Social Fund away from people who are most in need of some element of credit to get them from here to there, we are sending them into much more costly spirals of debt and very real problems of repayment. The third problem associated with this proposal is the guarantees we need to have that the money will be spent on the people for whom it is ordained.

The Minister can help us in this if he makes it very clear that local authorities will have no wriggle room to spend the money on anything other than the groups of people whom we are identifying. The firmer he can be in making clear to the House the statutory nature of that guidance, the more he will ease some of our concerns. He also needs to make it clear to the House what elements of the Social Fund will remain AME-demand-led and how much of it will be recycled and capped within a cash grant, what the situation will be in a local emergency-a factory explosion, a major flooding disaster or the like-and whether the local authority, as opposed to central government, has the capacity to respond to that in its social fund.

Therefore, can the Minister tell us first, how he can absolutely guarantee-short of ring-fencing, if that is not where he is prepared to go-that that is reported back to Parliament? Secondly, how he will manage the mixture of AME and DEL expenditure that currently goes into the Social Fund to ensure that local need is properly met?

10 pm

Baroness Sherlock: My Lords, I have two specific questions for the Minister. Following on from my noble friend Lady Hollis, even if the money were to be spent on the same people, how can the Government guarantee that it is spent for the purposes for which the Social Fund was originally created?

Looking at the local authority fieldwork summary report mentioned by my noble friend Lady Lister, the fear is clearly out there in local authorities that the money will be sucked up by social care budgets. For example, even if it was spent on child protection, that would simply be displacing other money and there would not then be money available to enable local authorities to give cash to vulnerable families. How will the Minister ensure that it gets to the right people and for the right purpose?

My second question follows on from what the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, said about the Office of the Children's Commissioner, which believes that the Government are in breach of Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Has the Minister taken advice on this matter and, if so, will he share it with the House?

Baroness Meacher: My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 50ZC and I will try to speak extremely briefly in view of the hour. This amendment seeks to ensure that the Social Fund remains in place-



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Baroness Garden of Frognal: With great respect to the noble Baroness, that is in the next group. We are going to stop on this group.

Baroness Meacher: I accept that agreement-excellent.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I think I have the right group. As we have heard, unless this Bill is amended, it will fundamentally alter discretionary payments. Budgeting loans will be replaced by payments on account as part of the universal credit. Community care grants, which help those on means-tested benefits stay in their own homes, and crisis loans, which basically do what it says on the tin -they are for a crisis and they are a loan-will both be abolished and the money handed over to local authorities.

As has been said, the problem is that there are no guarantees that similar support will be available to vulnerable people who need it; the funding will not be ring-fenced; and there will be no statutory duties attached, not even any guidance of the sort that my noble friend Lady Hollis has requested. Earlier the Government were very clear that they would not issue any guidance-we trust they may have had time to rethink that. Without guidance, which would guarantee access to certain groups or place a statutory duty on councils to provide the sort of service that has existed, or to ring-fence the money, there is a real danger that the kinds of support that have been available will simply dry up.

The lack of ring-fencing caused the biggest concern to those responding to the Government's consultation: 42 per cent of respondents raised it, a higher proportion than on any other part of the proposals. The various charities, which know a thing or two about vulnerable people, have, I am sure, contacted the Government-they certainly contacted us about this. Crisis is,

Family Action is similarly,

which it fears,

Barnardo's also knows a thing or two about working with vulnerable people. It feels that,

and is therefore "seriously concerned" about its removal and the money being given to local authorities, should this not be ring-fenced. Scope is similarly,

I am sure that some 22 charities have been in contact because they are worried about the loss of this last safety net for the most vulnerable when they suffer from emergency situations in the form of traumatic events such as homelessness and domestic violence, which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Blair.

The lack of the ring-fence was mentioned here tonight by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, and in Committee, including by the noble Lord, Lord German,

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who is not in his place. In response to that, the Minister, who also is not in his place, said that he was extremely concerned about what was being said about the lack of a ring-fence and that he would reflect on the issues raised. I trust that his reflection is going to be shared with us shortly. As we have heard, a third of those getting community care grants are disabled, a quarter are lone parents and one in 10 are pensioners. These moneys go to people moving out of residential or institutional care to live independently, including children moving on from care and people coming out of homeless hostels, psychiatric hospitals and women's refuges. These are exactly the sort of people who are being helped. In the future, of course, we may rather sadly have to add those who are forced to move as a result of the Government's so-called under-occupancy rules, should the Government insist on overturning your Lordships' amendment. Similarly, we risk larger families being forced to move elsewhere once the benefit cap, if that is not amended, affects high-rent areas such as London and the south-east. Again, people will be forced to move and set up home anew. Community care grants also help families at risk due to exceptional pressures. We have heard about overcrowding, relationship breakdown and the examples of a house fire or flooding.

Perhaps the Minister could tell the House whether he has read Destination Unknown, a Demos report tracking the lives of disabled families through the cuts. If he has read it, does he recall the central message that, for the disabled, one unexpected event such as an added illness, a mix-up over benefits, the need for new wheels on an electric chair or longer taxi rides to medical appointments can completely blow a person's budget out of the water? The disabled tend to have no savings, no leeway and nothing else to rely on. It is exactly this sort of money that has been available to them. Charities, which have also often stepped in, are seeing their supply of funding drying up. They are finding themselves overburdened with demands. Jobs are less available, and the traditional hiccups or slight delays in payments that are bound to occur with the introduction of new systems that we will see at a later stage can have a devastating effect on the week-to-week budgets of disabled people. They just manage, but it is these sorts of emergency funds which can make all the difference when something goes wrong.

Crisis loans are slightly different from the other elements and the DWP has claimed that this expenditure rose following the introduction of the telephone-based application scheme. However, there is no actual evidence that it was a cause rather than a correlation which showed on the figures as the rise in claims also coincided with an increase in unemployment. Also, it is important to remember that the crisis loan scheme is a loan.

Another report that the House may be aware of was published by Barnardo's in December last year on the vicious circle and heavy burden of credit on low- income families. Families can become trapped in a cycle of debt, which can have a very persistent effect. The Social Fund offers a far better alternative to vulnerable families than home credit, payday loans and other forms of high-interest lending, including of course illegal loan sharks. It is estimated that a £100 loan from a loan shark needs repayments of £285 and

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takes 57 weeks to repay. The same loan from the Social Fund costs £100 and takes 15 weeks to repay. Furthermore, these are the amounts we are talking about. I think that the average award last year was just £83, so we are not talking about hundreds of thousands, but we are talking about money that makes an enormous difference to a certain number of people. These loans can be life-changing. They can be the rent for a new home; they can be the move out of institutional care and help to pay either that rent up front or for the cooker that enables one to live there.

Our concern is that a lack of ring-fencing will mean that these loans are simply not available under a new scheme. Councils, as has been heard, are already worried that the money will drift away elsewhere, and we understand the temptation for that. We have already seen 123 local authorities increase their meals-on-wheels charges, some by up to 400 per cent, while their own grants to local voluntary agencies, which used to be able to help, are drying up. We should not be surprised if local authorities were a little tempted to move this funding elsewhere.

The amendment does not seek to frustrate the Government's intention to localise, nor does it argue with the contention that need will best be met if identified at a local level. It seeks to provide a safeguard for the many people who need the support that the Social Fund now provides to help them in a crisis. It is because of the strong concerns that we have heard expressed across the House about the vulnerability of these groups of people if this money is not available that we support the amendment.

As Barnardo's points out, some local authorities do not yet have expertise in working with the poorest. An inner London borough may well understand how to implement the infrastructure to offer a Social Fund replacement, but this is less likely in a shire county with a smaller and more dispersed population of disadvantaged people. Indeed, localised replacement is likely to be provided through adult social services. Many people who need the support of the Social Fund, such as homeless people, will not be clients of social services, so they may struggle to access it anyway. Without ring-fencing and some guidelines about who it should go to, we have grave worries about the gap that will be left. I hope that the Minister's period of reflection on the amendment will enable him to accept it.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I absolutely understand what the noble Baroness's Amendment 50 is trying to achieve. I assure your Lordships that we are equally committed to ensuring that this money is targeted on and reaches the most vulnerable people. We appreciate the importance of this money to vulnerable people, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, has just explained.

As noble Lords have said, ring-fencing was debated in Committee and the Government have thought carefully about the valuable points that were made. We share the desire of noble Lords to ensure that these funds are used in the way intended and are not lost in the general pool of local authority funding.

We have concluded that the most appropriate way to make clear to local authorities the purpose of the funding is by setting it out in a settlement letter from

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the Secretary of State that will accompany the funding that is sent to each local authority. This letter will set out clearly what the funding is to be used for and describe the outcome that must be achieved. It is important that local authorities are not constrained in how they achieve that outcome, so the letter will not prescribe the method that should be used.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Obviously this letter has not yet been sent; I presume that it has been drafted. Would the Minister be willing to circulate to Members of this House taking part in the debate the draft of the proposed settlement letter that he expects to send, so that we can be reassured? I am sure that his intentions are entirely beneficent in this regard, but it might assuage some of our concerns were we to see a letter in draft before it was sent out. If we had comments on it, we could then feed them back to him.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the letter is not yet in draft. If it is possible to do something along the lines that the noble Baroness asks, I will do it, but I hope she appreciates that I will make no commitment on that.

The letter will ensure that the money intended for vulnerable people goes to vulnerable people without curtailing the freedom of local authorities to tailor provision and, for example, pool funding, without imposing a one-size-fits-all approach that does not take account of the different needs faced by different areas. Furthermore, to underline its purpose, the funding will be distributed to local authorities through a specific revenue grant, rather than including it with the rest of their general expenditure in the main revenue support grant.

10.15 pm

I acknowledge that ring-fencing has been put forward as a means of ensuring that the money is spent appropriately. Our concern is that if the funding is ring-fenced in the way the amendment requires, local authorities will be prevented from investing in services or pooling the money with funding for other existing services to provide a comprehensive and effective support system for the most vulnerable in their communities.

We have thought further on the issue of how we can check that the funding for this new provision has indeed helped to support vulnerable people. The department is already planning to conduct a review in 2014-15, obtaining appropriate information from a representative cross-section of local authorities in order to help inform future funding levels. Following the helpful contributions of noble Lords in Committee, I am able to commit that this exercise will be extended to provide more information about the way in which local authorities have used the funding.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, raised a human rights question. The policy is developed taking account of the Government's commitment to human rights. We do not accept that the Social Fund changes breach the convention. Support will still be provided for children, and local authorities will be able to link the new provision with existing responsibilities such as those through the Children Act.



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Baroness Sherlock: I asked specifically whether the Government had sought or received any legal advice about whether or not this proposal was compliant with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Can the Minister answer that question?

Lord De Mauley: Perhaps I may come to that in a moment.

Baroness Sherlock: I shall look forward to it.

Lord De Mauley: My noble friend Lord Kirkwood asked about the structure of what is being transferred. The current Social Fund AME allocation of £178 million will fund the new local provision. It will be distributed based on spend at the point of transfer nationally between England, Scotland and Wales. In England, the funding will be devolved to upper-tier local authorities. Again this will be based on Social Fund expenditure. The AME funding splits £141 million to replace community care grants and £36 million for emergency provision. The first year of the new system will be 2013-14 and the funding will be the same as the amounts in 2012-13.

My noble friend asked about the Social Fund Commissioner. The Independent Review Service changed 20,886 decisions in 2010-11. The number of crisis loans, budgeting loans and community care grant decisions made was 5,595,000. The IRS makes decisions on cases that can go one way or another depending on the discretion of the decision-maker. All decisions on the discretionary Social Fund are also first subject to an internal review in Jobcentre Plus.

My noble friend asked about the possible substitution for cash and white goods and indicated that he thought it might not meet the needs. There will of course still be national provision of advances of benefit through the new payments-on-account scheme that will replace budgeting loans and crisis loans for alignment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, asked how the mixture of AME and DEL will be managed. All the money is AME. There will be, of course, additional admin funding on top to cover the cost of the new burdens.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Is the Minister therefore saying that if local authorities represent that there is increased need based on the criteria in the letter of guidance, the Government will respond with increased expenditure because AME, of course, means that it is demand led?

Lord De Mauley: I would not go that far.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I thought that the noble Lord would not. I do not think that we can say that it is AME, in that case, if it is not. The point about AME within DWP is that it responds to demand. If it is going to be a cash grant, it is not going to be demand; it will effectively be DEL.

Lord De Mauley: Historically it has been AME. The funding for the year 2012-13 will be the funding that is transferred in 2013-14. It will not increase by

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that amount. However, there are the budgeting loans to which I have referred as well.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, raised a question over benefits. Short-term advances will replace crisis loans for alignment as part of a national payments on account scheme. These advances of benefit will cover those in financial need as a result of waiting for an increase in benefit or for a benefit claim to be dealt with.

On the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Sherlock, the policy is developed taking account of all relevant rights. We did not take specific legal advice.

I hope that what I have said will enable the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: I am very grateful to all noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Blair, who waited patiently all day and has shown his commitment to the importance of this amendment in doing so. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, is ever a supporter on the side of righteousness and rightly said that ring-fencing is the very least that noble Lords should expect.

I am grateful to the Minister for the spirit in which he responded to the amendment. It was very much the spirit in Grand Committee by the end-the recognition that we must ensure that the money is spent. As my noble friend Lady Sherlock said, it is not just on the people for whom it is intended but for the purpose for which it is intended. I am afraid that I am personally not convinced that a settlement letter is sufficient to

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ensure that. We have made some progress but not nearly enough. The Minister then half-answered the question that I was going to asked on how the Government would check that the settlement letter was followed. I think that he said that there would be a review in 2014-15 of a cross-section of local authorities. Perhaps I may suggest that perhaps he would like to consider Amendment 50ZA before we come back, as it would go further than that and require local authorities to report on how they use the money, because that is the only way in which to be sure that the settlement letter is adhered to.

I am afraid that I am not terribly convinced by the Minister's response to the question asked by my noble friend Lady Sherlock about the UN convention on children's rights. If the Government have not taken legal advice-and I believe that the Children's Commissioner's report is only just published-I would want to know specifically what the Government's response is to that report and to what the Children's Commissioner says. We have not heard that response tonight. However, I am aware that it is very late and it is not the time to test the opinion of the House, even though not one noble Lord has spoken in support of the Government and all noble Lords have spoken in support of the amendment. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 50 withdrawn.

Consideration on Report adjourned.

House adjourned at 10.24 pm.


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