December 11 2013 Latest news:
by Lynne Featherstone
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The MP for Hornsey and Wood Green on why she believes the benefit cap is beginning to work.
"Last year Haringey returned £233,000 of its discretionary housing payment fund to the Department for Work and Pensions... If councils are failing to pass on this money and support, I suggest that a huge part of the problem lies there."
The benefit cap was implemented to ensure that work always pays. In Hornsey and Wood Green there are many individuals and families who work hard. It simply wouldn’t be right if people who can work – but choose not to – received a greater income from benefits than a working family.
This is not about demonising people on benefits. The Lib Dems have always believed that government should provide a safety net, and that people who are unable to work should be given the support they need.
That’s why widows, the disabled, and those unable to work are exempt from the cap. It is targeted towards incentivising people who can work to do so.
In Hornsey and Wood Green unemployment is falling. Since Labour left government in 2010, unemployment has fallen from 5.2 per cent to 4 per cent. That’s nearly 1,000 less claimants. Youth unemployment here is also down by a third.
Since the cap was piloted in Haringey in April, we’ve seen the most drastic drop – there are 450 less Job Seekers Allowance claimants than there were before it was introduced.
I agree that many people affected by the cap need extra support (with rent, for instance) while they look for work with reduced benefits.
That’s why the Lib Dems in government have given councils a record amount of funding to give to these individuals and families, in the form of discretionary housing payments.
Haringey Council leader Cllr Claire Kober claims that the council is too financially stretched to help everyone in need. I find this bizarre, given that last year Haringey returned £233,000 of its discretionary housing payment fund to the Department for Work and Pensions instead of giving it to residents.
If councils are failing to pass on this money and support, I suggest that a huge part of the problem lies there.
Under Labour we saw a 60 per cent rise in the welfare bill. Their system created a situation where thousands of able-bodied claimants could claim more than £30,000, sometimes up to £100,000, a year in benefits. This was simply not fair.
The cap has attempted to address this unfairness and get people into work, while protecting the vulnerable by exempting them from any reductions to their benefits.
If the unemployment figures are anything to go by, we’re starting to see some positive results.
(Haringey blogger: Lynne Featherstone)