Benefit caps and central London: how many children will be moving school?

Many Liberal Democrats I’ve spoken to have mixed feelings about the proposed benefit cap and some of the housing benefit changes. On the one hand, they have very little sympathy with the complaints of people such as Frank Dobson that rule changes means he wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in his council flat. Count me in the camp who doesn’t think council housing should be used to let ex-ministers with decades of salary earning that puts them amongst the best paid in the country and with membership of a decent pension scheme live in one of London’s most expensive areas.

I’m not in Frank Dobson’s class, but even providing council housing to me would be an appalling waste given the pressing needs there are from people who really are in need of a helping hand.

But… on the other hand, people having to move looks very different if it involves disruption such as children having to change schools. That’s the angle the Evening Standard has picked up on:

The impact of the new limits on housing benefit has been laid bare in a report by Westminster City Council.

The stark scenario revealed shows that one in six primary school age children in the borough may have to move home and in many cases go to a new school.

In Maida Vale it is an astonishing 43 per cent who could be affected in this way.

Across central London, thousands of school children may have to move.

“May” is very different from “will”, of course, but even with that caveat Simon Hughes is on the case:

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes is due to meet with Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith next week to demand changes to the policy.

It is only certain parts of London which are particularly hard hit by the caps and Mr Hughes, who backs the policy in principle, wants ministers to lessen the blow for many of the households affected.

“It is crucial that the Government uses this time to think of a solution now that more and more evidence is emerging of the severe consequences the benefits caps will have on London and Londoners,” he told The Standard.

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