The original benefits cap limited the total benefits payable to any one household to £26,000. The argument was that the average household income is £26,000 that people should not be better off on benefits than if they were in work. The aim was to ‘encourage’ more people back into work, as the cap could be avoided if one of the members worked for at least 16 hours a week.
Damian Green, the Work and Pensions minister, has claimed that this strategy was a “real success” – a somewhat callous comment given the hardship it has imposed on a large number of families. In fact, of the 79,000 people who have already been subjected to a benefits cap, only 23,000 (30%) have managed to find the level of work that would allow them to retain their benefits.
From today the cap will be lowered even more, to £23,000. This will affect a further 88,000 people, with the average household losing £2000 each year. Single parents will be worse hit, as many anecdotes demonstrate.
The party has tabled a motion in the Lords, to be debated on Tuesday, which proposes that there should be increased support for getting people back to work. This is, of course, only a part of the solution to deal with a very messy situation.
Cathy Bakewell is our Liberal Democrat Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, and she says:
Lowering the benefit cap means it is no longer doing the job for which it was originally introduced. Cutting thousands of people’s benefits is just cruel, but failing to help them find work is just reckless.
The Government needs to plough any savings they make from the cap into supporting those affected by it. If they are unwilling to do so, then they are accepting their new lower cap is purely a PR exercise aimed at attacking those on benefits. Those are not the actions of a civilised society.
Sevenoaks and Swanley Lib Dems have several members and know many friends and family who will be directly affected by these new Conservative cuts and we will be doing our level best to stop them in their tracks. Please let us know if you are affected at firstname.lastname@example.org