The benefit cap for single people, which comes into force this week, appears to be little more than an attempt to use the law to tell lies about benefits. The cap for those without children will not save the government a penny, and apart from gradually eating away at the income of a handful of sick or disabled claimants* – who may not even exist – it will barely affect anyone at all.
The cap overall will have a devastating impact on London poorest families with up to 40,000 people now staring homelessness in the face. For those who are single and without children however the cap is set at £350 a week. This is higher than anyone unemployed is currently receiving on benefits, and just 15p less than the maximum currently available for those on sickness or disability benefits.
Disabled people, which in this case means those on DLA, its replacement PIP, or those in the Support Group part of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) are exempt from the cap. Not disabled enough people, in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) part of ESA, are affected, but only those living in properties which are priced at the maximum possible level which can be paid by housing benefits – £250 a week for a single person. This handful of people in high rent central London boroughs, will lose 15p a week, although that will become worse over time as rents and prices rise and benefit levels stays the same.
Most single claimants in London are not eligible for anything like £250 a week in Housing Benefits, which are also capped at the bottom 30% of rents in the local housing market. Even if 500 people in the high rent London boroughs are currently claiming the full rate of Housing Benefit – and are in the ESA WRAG group – then the single person’s benefit cap will save less than £100 a week in total. This is considerably less than it will cost to administer and inform everybody about the cap.
Claimants on Job Seeker’s Allowance can currently also claim a maximum of £250 in Housing Benefit, but again this is restricted to those living in the central London boroughs. Job Seeker’s Allowance is currently £71.70, meaning nobody on the dole will be affected by the benefit cap for single people of £350 a week.
Iain Duncan Smith’s seemed to love his benefit cap so much that he did it twice. The first time, when he capped Housing Benefits, it genuinely hurt, with every measure of homelessness – including the number of people sleeping on the streets – rising as vast swathes of London became unaffordable overnight to the poorest.
The second time it also hurt, but only for those with children who are now being socially cleansed from most of London. For single people however it seems to have been little more than a crass PR exercise designed to give the impression that many claimants were receiving far higher benefits than is legally possible. The only reason for this can be an attempt at entrenching Tory benefit bullshitting in legislation. Not content with the endless abuse aimed at claimants from the right wing press, the DWP have introduced a pointless law simply to mislead people into believing that everyone on benefits was receiving a small fortune.
*It is technically possible that should there exist a non-resident carer, who happens to be paying the full rent of £250 a week and is on income based Employment Support Allowance in the WRAG group, then they may see their income affected by the cap. If such a person exists they must feel very special that Iain Duncan Smith has invented a whole new law just for them.
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