Socialist Worker

Tory benefit cap will drive thousands more into destitution

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2362

Campaigning against the bedroom tax in Birmingham earlier this year

Campaigning against the bedroom tax in Birmingham earlier this year (Pic: Pete Jackson)


Thousands of people took a huge hit to their housing benefits on Monday of this week. The first part of the Tories’ benefit cap came into force in the majority of Britain’s councils.

It limits the total benefits any household can receive—with a few exceptions such as Disability Living Allowance—at £500 a week.

The government says this is about fairness, making sure that no one out of work receives more than the average wage. 

Most unemployed people receive far less than this—the basic jobseekers’ allowance is a puny £71 a week.

But those households that are hit receive more benefits because they need them. This is especially true for households with children struggling to keep up with rocketing housing costs.

One third of the boroughs in Britain are unaffordable for low income families who need a two bedroom home. That’s according to a new report by the Resolution Foundation thinktank.

This includes all of London and most of south east England.

They found that a “modest” two bedroom home could not be found for £700 a month. And for larger families it is even harder.

Poverty

A trial of the cap in four London boroughs took money from 2,500 households. 

Four out of five were single parents with children, and one in three lost more than £100 at once.

The cap targets only those out of work. But contrary to the rhetoric many people in work do receive these benefits to subsidise low wages.

The cap has yet to be put on the boroughs where the most people will be affected.

These are  mainly in London which are set to be hit in four weeks’ time. And another 4,000 larger families will be capped under the Universal Credit system which brings child benefit under the cap too.

Universal Credit has been repeatedly delayed thanks to IT problems and angry claimants. But it is still set to be rolled out to Britain’s job centres between October and April 2014.

Sanctions

It will dramatically expand the number of people who can have their benefits sanctioned if they don’t jump through the right hoops to show they are looking for work.

This includes low paid workers who will have to show they are looking for more hours. 

People have been sanctioned for some absurd reasons—such as cancelling a job centre appointment to attend a job interview. 

Increased pressure on jobcentres already struggling with job losses have made arbitary criteria worse.

Around 40 people protested against sanctions outside Leith jobcentre in Edinburgh on Thursday of last week.

It was part of a week of action by Boycott Workfare.


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