The benefit cap SEEMS such a good idea in theory; highly superficial theory at least: Yet the minute you scratch under the surface it all falls apart and reveals its true horrors. A simple yet crude overview is below:
Yesterday at the first Corbyn PMQs the Prime Minister said something about it – and specifically CHOICE, which has seen my report on this here have over 50,000 views in less than a day: For a blog that is a phenomenal number and I thank all of you for the nice comments it has received.
I first argued against the benefit cap in 2010/11 yet despite literally scores of posts about it, it took what is either Cameron lying over it or his ignorance of how the benefit cap impacts at PMQs for this to hit home. The time is so right to issue a Benefit Cap for Dummies post which I attempt here….yet it is not easy as you will see.
1. What is the benefit cap?
The politician’s answer is that it places an OVERALL limit or cap on the amount of ‘welfare’ that a household can receive. That sounds perfectly sensible and sounds ‘right’ yet that is a superficial and crude view.
It does mean that a mum with a day old baby has to go out to work else she will be hit with an average £75.73 per week deduction from her housing benefit which is patently unfair by any measure.
It also means that a husband who cares for his wife or other family member must also stop doing that and take up employment else he will also have an average £75.73 per week deducted from his housing benefit. This is distinctly unfair by any measure.
The benefit cap also means that if you receive the welfare benefit called SEVERE DISABLEMENT ALLOWANCE that the same can happen too. That is outrageously unfair by any measure.
Yet at PMQs yesterday the Prime Minister said it only hits those who CHOOSE not to work and that is patently false. None of the above examples choose NOT to work; rather they are either unable to work or not expected to have to work.
The overall cap limit is now £500 per week and the government will reduce this to £442.31 per week in London for 1 in 6 of the UK and secondly reduce the £500 per week cap limit to £384.62 for the 5 in 6 of the UK population that live outside of London. This begins in April 2016.
To simplify the benefit cap policy we need to look at HOW it works.
2. HOW does the benefit cap work?
The cap level is the starting point. From this the amount of welfare benefits received, child tax credits received and child benefit received is deducted – let;s call this OW or other welfare. This then leaves a maximum amount the claimant can receive in housing benefit.
CAP less OTHER WELFARE = MAXIMUM HOUSING BENEFIT ALLOWED
The problem with that operation is when housing benefit is reduced it means that the claimant has to make up the average £75.73 per week difference from their other welfare which is the minimum amount the law says the claimant needs to live on.
This immediately creates a risk of losing the roof over their heads of the claimant household, including children, due to the high probability of arrears that will occur and the inevitable eviction that will follow.
The only way to avoid this is to work. Yet so many people are unable to work, eg those with a disability or caring role and/or not expected to work such as the mum with a youngest child under three years of age.
The crudeness of the policy makes no account for the many hundreds of thousands of households who are unable to work or not expected to work.
I cautiously estimate 270,000 adults and 660,000 children will be evicted and made homeless – the vast majority being those unable to work or not expected to work.
3. Detailed example of HOW it works.
(a) We know the cap will fall to £384.62 per week
(b) We know precisely how much “other welfare” each household gets as the lone parent with 3 children receives exactly the same amount wherever they live in the UK. This is £292.19 if they receive JSA or £321.24 if they receive ESA and are in the work-related activity group (WRAG)
(c) The WRAG group is note well for vulnerable people who require up to two years support for them to be able to be deemed ‘fit for work.’
(d) We know a lone parent with 3 children has a housing need for a 3 bed property
(e) The table below reveals that the 1 Parent 3 children household on ESA will get a maximum housing benefit of £63.38 per week
(f) NB the official HB figures reveal that there are 3 housing benefit claimants on ESA for every 1 housing benefit claimant who is on JSA.
Hence the issue is not that the claimant chooses NOT to work in the main, it is that the majority are unable to work or not expected to work. They do NOT have any choice in the matter as Cameron wrongly states out of either ignorance or known lie as he did yesterday at PMQs.
For illustration a 3 bed social housing property, the cheapest form of rented property, ranges from the very low at around £83 per week to a high of around £145 per week in parts of Surrey or Hertfordshire.
Hence the claimant of a 1 parent 3 child household will need to contribute circa £20 per week to circa £80 per week to avoid an arrears eviction.
Note those figure apply to a social rent level. If the tenant has the misnamed “affordable rent” tenancy with a housing association then the shortfall could range from £30 per week in the lowest rent area up to £200+ in Surrey or Hertfordshire.
Also note that if the tenant privately rents then the shortfall will be higher still and arrears evictions in social and privately rented housing are inevitable for those who are unable to work and those who are not expected to work.
It is nether right or fair that those unable to work and unable to work immediately such as the 812,000 or so on ESA and in the WRAG face the reality of work immediately else you will be evicted and made homeless. Yet that is the reality they will face right across the UK from April 2016 and just 7 months from now.
It is neither right or fair that a mum with a new born baby must immediately go out to work or face the inevitable eviction and become homeless. An interesting issue is that this same government are legislating in 2017 to make all mums go out to work once the youngest child reaches 3 years or age in Universal Credit. Yet the benefit cap means a mum with a day old baby has to do that from April 2016!
How can it be correct or the intention of Parliament for that to be the case when it is clearly not? Surely that means a huge chance of success in the Upper Courts on this aspect of the policy as it is clearly not the intention of Parliament!
I will leave the JR lawyers to dwell on that aspect.
Could it also be said it was Parliament’s intention to make a familial carer abandon their kin and have to go out to work else be evicted and made homeless?
Is the fact that receipt of severe disablement allowance (its name is self-explanatory) that does NOT exempt the claimant from the benefit cap be a breach of human rights legislation and overtly discriminatory?
The benefit cap is so ill-conceived and so patently unfair the minute you scratch underneath the surface to reveal as I did above that…
the new mum, the family care, the person on SDA and all others unable to work or work immediately and those even this government does not expect to work – HAVE TO work immediately else they will inevitably be evicted and made homeless?
If you think the benefit cap policy is fair you are severely mistaken!
PS – I do not tag my blogs on this site yet if you search for “Speye Joe benefit cap” you will see scores of very detailed posts on this issue which all explain the detailed and often complex figures and facts which the above overview summarises.
Some are rants which is understandable given the ten to fifteen fold increase in homeless children this ill-conceived and overtly politically spun policy will mean, and it will see that 78% of those affected will be outside of high rent London which is a factor many commentators miss due to acute London bias and frankly laziness in their research.
Yet most are not but they are all passionately against this most pernicious policy ever implemented despite its superficial theory as being just and right.