Tag Archives: benefits cap

Ending relative poverty in the UK is easy

Recently I have seen a couple of comments on LDV which state that ending relative poverty in the UK would be a difficult and complex thing to achieve. They are mistaken.

The reason someone is living in relative poverty is because they don’t have enough money. The answer, therefore, is to ensure that benefit levels give them enough to pay all of their housing costs and have enough left over to be on the poverty line and not below it. As Philip Alston, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in his report points out “employment alone is insufficient” to lift someone out of poverty.

Already we have a system which reduces benefits by 63p for every pound earned, but 4 million workers live in poverty. This is because the gain from working is not enough to lift the person out of poverty. If they were already out of poverty when living only on benefits then no one working could be living in poverty.

We need to ensure that those living on benefits have enough money to pay all of their housing costs. Scrapping the benefit cap helps, as would increasing Local Housing Allowance in line with local rents (both party policy). However, they don’t go far enough. Local Housing Allowance was introduced by the Labour government in 2008. It sets maximums for housing benefit depending on local rents, and sets out what type of accommodation different types of families can have.

It is not liberal for the state to tell people how many rooms they can have to live in. It is not liberal for the state to force tenants into debt arrears. It is not liberal for the state to force someone to move house when they experience difficult times such as when they become unemployed.

It is liberal for the state to pay 100% of the housing costs of those on benefit. Therefore we should have as our long-term aim scrapping the LHA and in the meantime increase its value above the bottom 30% of local rents. (I expect this is the main reason that 1.9 million pensioners are living in poverty). The least we should do is reduce the single person age down to 25 from 35, so a single person aged between 25 and 34 should no longer be forced to live in shared accommodation.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 111 Comments

Lib Dems table motion on benefit cap

The original benefits cap limited the total benefits payable to any one household to £26,000. The argument was that the average household income is £26,000 that people should not be better off on benefits than if they were in work. The aim was to ‘encourage’ more people back into work, as the cap could be avoided if one of the members worked for at least 16 hours a week.

Damian Green, the Work and Pensions minister, has claimed that this strategy was a “real success” – a rather callous comment given the hardship it has imposed on a large number of families. In fact, of the 79,000 people who have already been subjected to a benefits cap, only 23,000 (30%) have managed to find the level of work that would allow them to retain their benefits.

From today the cap will be lowered even more, to £23,000. This will affect a further 88,000 people, with the average household losing £2000 each year. Single parents will be worse hit, as many anecdotes demonstrate.

The party has tabled a motion in the Lords, to be debated on Tuesday, which proposes that there should be increased support for getting people back to work. This is, of course, only a part of the solution to deal with a very messy situation.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 33 Comments

Opinion: Benefits cap – right or wrong?

There’s a lot in the news about the Benefits Cap following yesterday’s dismissal of the case where three single mothers took forward a legal challenge to the cap on their benefits.  They lost, but perhaps we as Liberal Democrats should question the logic behind the benefits cap.

Now, on one hand, when you look at it, £500 per week seems like a lot of money. Even for a family of three. With this in mind, it seems completely legitimate to cap the amount of support families receive to £26,000 per year. With the average earnings in the UK resting at …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 57 Comments
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