THE Benefits Cap came into force nationally yesterday, setting poor families and the unemployed as its main target, capping the total amount of benefits that couples and lone parents can receive at £500 a week, and imposing a £350 limit on single people.
Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit are all included in the cap.
The Department for Work and Pensions predicts that 40,000 households will have their benefits capped, saving the government £295m over two years.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society described the cap as ‘a blunt instrument’ which will do most harm to children.
He said: ‘The debate round this cap has focused solely on workless adults, but the reality is that children are seven times more likely than adults to lose out.
‘140,000 children, compared to 60,000 adults, will pay the price as parents have less to spend on food, clothing and rent.
‘And almost half the adults affected will have children aged four or younger, and would find it extremely difficult to be in work, even if they could afford childcare which can cost as much as £100 per child per week.’
Gordon MacRae of Shelter Scotland, said: ‘With rents so high it is homeless families and individuals living in temporary and private accommodation who will bear the brunt in Scotland.
‘Once again the repeated failure to build enough social and affordable housing is coming home to roost and compounding the effects of welfare reform and the benefits cap.
Ruth Davison, director of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘In many parts of the country, families won’t be able to pay high private rents because of the cap.
‘There will be more demand than ever for affordable housing, particularly in Greater London where nearly half (49 per cent) of the people affected by the benefit cap live.’
She added: ‘Families could face the stark choice of cutting back on essentials or having to move away long distances from their support networks to look for cheaper places to live.’
However, the Labour Party leadership backed the reactionary Benefits Cap, only criticising it for not going further in its attacks on the poor and unemployed.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, said: ‘The Benefit Cap is a good idea in principle but it’s already fallen apart in practice.
‘Ministers have bodged the rules so the cap won’t affect Britain’s 4,000 largest families and it does nothing to stop people living a life on welfare.
‘The government needs to go back to the drawing board, design a cap without holes and put a two year limit on the time you can spend on the dole, like Labour’s compulsory jobs guarantee.’
The cap is to be completely implemented by 30 September, and will then become part of the Universal Credit system.
The cap is set to lead to an explosion of councils attempting to ‘decant’ families out of high rent areas.