Exposed: The six myths of IDS’s benefits cap

This morning, the Child Poverty Action Group have exposed the six myths of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s regressive reforms; here they are.

Vile: The minister for cruelty Iain Duncan Smith

 

The government faces a battle in the House of Lords today over its controversial benefits cap, with bishops joining Liberal Democrat peers – led by former leader Paddy Ashdown – in opposition to the plans that will push 100,000 children into poverty. In 2012. Under this cabinet of millionaires.

This morning, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have exposed the six myths of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s regressive reforms.

Here they are:

Myth 1: The cap is just for out of work claimants of benefits

Ministers have fostered the impression that this is about ensuring working families get a fair deal compared to those who don’t work. However, ministers confirmed in their impact assessment document that any couple working up to 23 hours a week will still be affected by the cap when it is introduced.

That means that many families not in receipt of any out-of-work benefits (e.g. jobseekers’ allowance (JSA), income support (IS) and employment support allowance (ESA)) and receiving just earnings, tax credits and in work benefits (e.g. housing benefit (HB) and council tax benefit (CTB)) will be hit by the cap too.

Source: For the government’s confirmation that Working Tax Credit – with its 24 hours of work requirement – will be used as indicative of being in work for the cap policy, see the impact assessment (pdf).

Myth 2: Claimants have more money than working families

Most of those hit by the cap will be in private rented households. It is the landlords that get the cash – often paid directly to them – meaning the families are really left struggling to pay for basic costs like utility bills, food, clothes, transport etc. The root problem of rising housing benefit costs is the failure to maintain sufficient supplies of social housing, and the runaway inflation of private rents due to the bubble in the housing market.

The cap does nothing about the root problem and the crisis in the supply of affordable housing is predicted to worsen by housing experts.

Source: For more information on affordable housing crisis, see Shelter’s web page.

Myth 3: Families with a disabled member will not be affected

Disability living allowance (DLA), then the personal independence payment (PIP), will be used as a proxy to identify households that will be excluded from the cap on grounds of disability. However, many disabled people do not qualify for DLA – and even fewer will qualify for PIP.

The government has admitted they expect half of the households hit by the cap to have a disabled person, using the Disability Discrimination Act 2010 definition. Poor decision making for DLA claims with high rates of successful appeals will also mean many families going in and out of the cap unfairly, causing chaos, debt and homelessness.

Source: For the government’s statement, see answer to PQ 68034.

Myth 4: There will be no behavioural changes and social impacts

The government’s impact assessment has assumed that there will be no behavioural changes, and states that there will be no social impacts. However, the measure introduces a couple penalty that will mean some families may be able to receive twice as much in benefit payments if they separate.

A couple with at least two children who are subject to the £500 cap could claim up to £1,000 in benefits if the parents separate and divide the residency of their children between two homes. The incentive for families to break up will not just be financial, as it may also mean that they are able to remain living in the same area so that they can avoid their children changing schools and continue living in the same neighbourhood as networks of friends and relations.

Source: For more information, see the impact assessment (pdf).

Myth 5: The cap will deliver fiscal savings

The cap is likely to reduce benefits spending by £240 million per annum, but it will lead to costs elsewhere in the system that may surpass those savings. Warnings from within government suggest there will be a net fiscal cost.

The private secretary to Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, wrote to the private secretary to the prime minster last year and said “we think it is likely that the policy as it stands will generate a net cost” as a consequence of the homelessness and migration that will be caused, and the costs this will place on local authority services.

Source: You can read the full warning letter here.

Myth 6: This is a new policy

This policy has in fact been tried and failed once before. The ‘wage stop’ in force during the 1970s was a similar policy which aimed to cap benefits at the level of average wages. It proved unfair and unworkable and was eventually abolished.

Source: For more information on the wage stop, see this speech by Robin Cook who successfully campaigned for its abolition.

There’s more on the horror of the reforms in today’s Guardian, which looks at the case of Daniela Pereira:

Last year Daniela Pereira, 28, moved from Kensington to Peckham in order to reduce her rent before the changes but now is having to move again because her age – under 35 – means she can only get housing benefit if she is living in shared accommodation.

“I have a disability, so it’s a bit difficult for me to live in shared houses. I can’t use stairs or do things like the dishes or cleaning up ,so it really impacts on what I can find.”

Pereira worked in catering until developing psoriatic arthritis which makes it difficult for her to walk.

“I was living in Cornwall, but I came to London because I thought it would be easier for me, finding a job, accessing doctors and physio appointments. Peckham was about the cheapest I could find, and I can just about afford food too, but nothing else. I don’t know where to go.

“I’m not being supported to find work. It’s as if they want me to be stuck on benefits for the rest of my life. I don’t want that.”

As CPAG chief exec Alison Garnham said:

“The household benefit cap policy is built on a foundation of myths, but the 210,000 children affected will face harsh realities of severe poverty and homelessness.

“The Bishops in the House of Lords will be putting forward some sensible proposals today that will protect children and families. We hope a government that promised to be the most family friendly ever will prove it today by following their lead.”

Once again, the government of the one per cent are balancing the books on the backs of the poorest… all in it together?

See also:

Children’s commissioner slams welfare billAlex Hern, January 11th 2012

Five reasons to oppose the welfare billDaniel Elton, December 12th 2011

Cameron’s benefit cap rewards family break-upSam Royston, September 5th 2011

Pickles letter to Cameron reveals inconvenient truth on benefits capPete Challis, July 3rd 2011

One and half cheers for Lib Dem opposition to Osborne’s benefit capDeclan Gaffney, May 17th 2011

143 Responses to “Exposed: The six myths of IDS’s benefits cap”

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  9. Nicky

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  14. TheCreativeCrip

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  16. Gov Manslaughter

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  22. Cllr Paul Bull

    @LonWon There's much of interest in Left Foot Forward's blog on myths surounding Benefit Cap http://t.co/rgBJmvBF

  23. Cllr Paul Bull

    @LonWon Esp Pickle's view that families w/4 children in benefits not be able to live in London and SE. http://t.co/rgBJmvBF

  24. debs8081

    The thing that i don’t get is why £26,000. Fair enough this will target people who are abusing the sysem and going in for really high amounts of rents that the housing benefits will pay for when a lot of people who work wouldn’t be able to afford it and I really think that is unfair , and I totally agree with the cap, but I think that it should be set at seperate amounts dependant on you circumstances. For example someone who is on benefits and has 2 kids and 2 adults could end up getting the same amount of benefits by private renting somewhere that is expensive as what someone with 2 adults and 5 or 6 kids and 2 or even more would get living in a council house. The larger family would be struggling because they have more people to provide for where the smaller family would obviously have less. So personally I think that there should be a cap on each individual circumstance. I really feel for people who have large families, these people struggle enough as it is on benefits. And not all of them had the children whilst they were on benefits.
    The other point I would like to say is, where are the jobs? My husband was laid off october 2011 and we have not managed to find anything yet, and it is not through lack of searching.

  25. Ed's Talking Balls

    You’ve summed up the frustrations and genuine anger that most of us feel about this.

    Good for you. You work hard and pay your way. People who do this are the lifeblood of this country.

    You will not get an answer to your question but there isn’t one.

  26. Grahame Morris

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  27. Patricia Farrington

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  28. William Shortall

    The 6 myths of IDS’s welfare policy http://t.co/rzuTgO61 inc pic of IDS looking angry too #labour social housing

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