The Benefit Cap: Is it working?

The Benefit Cap: Is it working?

19:00 PM, 13th April 2017, About 5 years ago 24

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On Wednesday 5th April 2017 evening BBC1 Panorama featured “The Benefit Cap: Is It Working?” Seminar details: Caridon

The programme was similar to Dispatches Benefit Families recently featured on Channel 4.

The reporter followed 5 families over 5 months to see how they were affected by the benefit cap and whether they were coping.

Caroline Nokes MP, Minister for Welfare Delivery was featured at the beginning of the programme and made the following statement “The benefit cap was introduced to try and level the playing field between families that are in work and those that are reliant on benefits and to incentivise work”

The show featured Sarah a single mother of 7 children, 3 of which are in foster care, whilst the other 4 remain in Sarah’s care. Sarah has not worked for 17 years and says that she is not currently in the position to work because she has no stable accommodation which hinders her employability.

Prior to the benefit cap Sarah received £428 per week in benefits, following the cap, her benefits were reduced by £44.00 per week causing Sarah to fall into arrears as the £44.00 was deducted from her housing benefit weekly entitlement. Sarah lost her home and belongings.

As a result of her unstable living conditions Sarah’s children were placed with others whilst she resided on her sisters’ sofa.

Whilst looking for accommodation Sarah met with a benefit advisor to check at what rate she would not be affected by the benefit cap and was advised that with 3 children or under, she would fit into the exemption criteria as her benefits would not exceed the £20,000 a year cap threshold. Sarah was told if she chose this option she may have to choose which of her children would stay in her care and which to put into foster care or with family members to prevent her from falling into the arrears again because of the cap.

Eventually Sarah was offered a Council property and was granted £30.00 from Social Services to move and to also provide her with basic necessities. Sarah took her youngest daughter Frankie back to move into the new house with her. This was short lived as Sarah found herself in a catch 22 situation, she could not claim benefits for the children until they lived with her but the property was unsuitable for the children as Sarah could not provide beds or furniture form them.

Social Services were aware of her situation and agreed to take Sarah to collect some furniture but they failed to show up they later contacted her to inform her that they were unable to offer her a lift to collect the furniture.

At the end of the show it was explained that Sarah was not in receipt of Housing Benefit and could possibly fall into the same cycle again.

The show then went onto feature Kim and her husband Steve who have 4 children. Both have been out of work for 9 years. For them to be exempt from the cap they would have to work 24 hours a week between them.

Kim suffers with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and depression. Steve has an injury on his arm from previous employment and is restricted from work.

They are affected by the benefit cap and only receive £2.00 per week Housing Benefit they are expected to make up the difference from their other benefits which they have been unable to do, so they have fallen behind and are at risk of losing their home. Although Steve spends approximately £40.00 per week on beers and cigarettes.

The family went to the Council to apply for a DHP to meet their rental obligation this was granted up until March when the family will have to make a new application if their circumstances do not change and they have not found employment.

Coleen’s story was slightly different from the others, Coleen is a 60 year old widow who gave up work to take up kinship of her 4 grandchildren as their mother was unfit to care for them. Colleen used to receive £467.00 per week in benefits which was reduced by £75.00 per week. Her housing benefit entitlement is £50.00 per week because of the cap and like the other families featured she is in arrears.

What is different about Colleen’s story is that she receives £29,000 per year kinship allowance in addition to her state benefits. She firmly states that the money is for her grandchildren so that they can have a good life, enjoy various activities and holidays. She does not feel that she should top up the rent from the kinship allowance that she receives, as those on carers allowance are exempt from the benefit cap, and she is campaigning for the same rulings to apply to kinship guardians.

If her grandchildren went into care it would cost the Local Authority approximately £100,000 to mind them.

We also followed the story of single dad of 4 Bruce, on his quest to find employment but finding it difficult due to child care issues.

He applied for a job in Barclays Bank and was successful but turned down the position as the hours were advertised as 20 hours per week but in fact the job was 25 hours per week. Bruce ideally wanted to work 16-21 hours.

Lastly, we followed Maria a single mother of 3 who has been out of work for 10 years. Her weekly benefit were £450 now cut by £65.00 per week due to the benefit cap.

Again, Maria is expected to cover her rent shortfall from her other benefits and is now £700.00 in arrears causing the Housing Association to serve notice on her, she has applied for a DHP to assist her with the shortfall and to clear the arrears luckily this was awarded short term.

8 years ago Maria was badly assaulted since then she has severe pain in her lower back meaning she cannot lift or bend and is also incontinent, however, DWP have assessed her as being able to work. In order for her to be exempt from the cap she will need to work 16 hours a week.

Throughout the show Maria is seen at the food bank in Wirral and often runs out of hot water or gas and is struggling.

Since the benefit cap has been introduced the Government has reportedly saved £150 million and continues to pay £100 billion in benefits for those of working age which is not really a significant saving considering the other associated costs that the Local Authority bear. To date more than 66,000 households have been capped, from this figure 11 per cent have had their housing benefit cut to 50 pence per week affecting 7585 families.

Since the initial benefit cap came into force only 1 in 20 have responded and are now employed and only 5% was offered a job within a year. Of the people featured in the programme, only 1 found a job which he had to turn down as it was not practical.

I’m sure most LHA/Universal Credit Landlords watched the show but for those landlords who never I thought I would give an overview, the programme is also available to watch on BBC IPlayer.

Again, I would love to hear your views!!

Regards

Sherrelle



Comments

by sam

22:28 PM, 14th April 2017, About 5 years ago

What an amazing story.
Anybody knows what happened to all these people on benefits before the days of benefits ? Must have been a few in them days but I guess they survived - somehow.

Seems to me this benefits thing is like a drug bleeding the country dry. The people paying for it cant afford it. The people receiving it are sapped of the will to help themselves other than to other peoples money. This society needs to be weened of benefits - sounds more like legalised theft to me.

The American president, John Adams, said some 200 years ago : if you receive without working for it, somebody else has to work for it without receiving. When half the country realises there is no need to work because somebody else will provide and the other half realises there is no point working because somebody else will receive, that will be the end of our country.'. Looks like we are almost there : we now have one half of a nation who are living on their entitlement and the other half who are resentful of providing for those who have been stripped of their backbone and pride.

What a world we live in. Entitlement used to be reserved for the rich kids (probably still is) but now seems like the less you have to make a living the more rights you have to pick and choose.

by Robert Mellors

23:33 PM, 14th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "sam " at "14/04/2017 - 22:28":

Hi Sam

I agree with your sentiments, but bearing in mind that about 85% of those affected by the Benefit Cap are disabled or have pre-school age children, we have to decide (as a nation) whether we want to provide a "safety net" for such families, or whether we are happy to return to the early Victorian era scenes of destitute families wrapped in rags, sleeping on the streets, and begging for scraps of stale bread. (Don't we have enough homeless single people, and enough families reliant on food banks, already?).
- I do understand that the cost of providing "welfare" is expensive, but so is the provision of a state pension and medical treatment for the growing elderly population, but I see no proposals to withdraw anyone's pension or euthanise everyone over a certain age.

Each change to the benefit system has a knock on effect elsewhere, and the Benefit Cap policy is costing far more than it is saving, so it is false economy done for political propaganda. Around 75% of the total welfare benefit bill is spent on pensions and benefits for the over 65s, as is the vast majority of the NHS budget, and the Social Services budget. I don't want to see these budgets cut, BUT, if "Joe Public" really wants to reduce the costs to the taxpayers then it is these budgets that have to be cut, and we have to accept the consequential suffering and deaths of our elderly loved ones. I do not want this to happen, but equally I do not want families and children forced to live (and die) on the streets either.

I don't know the answer to the problem, but I do know that the Benefit Cap definitely is NOT the answer and will actually cost the taxpayers much more.

by sam

1:02 AM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Hi Robert
Benefits over time = entitlement. Can we afford it ?
Its wrong not to look after our sick and needy and elderly. Equally, what proportion of your 85% are surfing the system ? Why have children if you cant afford them ? Single parents with multiple kids ? 7 of them ? £29k of somebody elses money put aside for the good things for the kids instead of paying rent ? May be the money came from somebody who cant afford these good things for their own kids because they have to pay mortgage ? The answer is clear - because there is a fall back position paid for by somebody elses labour. Human nature to take the easy way out. Unlike when the system first started, on current trend, we will soon end up with more people taking from the state than people contributing. May be already there. It has to stop before it is forced upon us. As with any change there will be collateral damages but this benefit system is not sustainable The cap is a necessity and only the beginning.
I think you are also under estimating human ability to survive. I think you will be pleasantly surprised how many people can get up and do what they have to do to survive (and probably better for it) when the back stop is taken away. Just need a bit of time to adjust the mind set that benefits are not entitlement and no longer there.
This benefits system creates 2 sets of victims : the guy paying and the guy receiving. Sooner it is gone the better - except for the most unfortunate.

by Robert Mellors

1:33 AM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "sam " at "15/04/2017 - 01:02":

Hi Sam

I think you are missing the point I am making about the Benefit Cap, it does not work, it results in higher costs!

As for the "collateral damage", that is people's lives. Who should be the one to decide who should live and who should die, in order to save the taxpayer some money? Will you be judge, jury, and executioner?

I am a lone parent, and there have been times when I have depended on welfare benefits, perhaps you think me and my child should have been left to live on the streets and starve, as we were (at the time) clearly a drain on society and on taxpayers money!!! - Perhaps you think we "would be better for it", as you put it?

Sorry, but such a high and mighty attitude disgusts me.

by CARIDON LANDLORD SOLUTIONS

4:26 AM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "14/04/2017 - 23:33":

Well said Robert

by Mick Roberts

7:25 AM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

One half paying for the other half?
I thought the unemployment ratio was 4%+?

Some people not been there on ground level and don't understand it.

I'd love everyone to be like me, organised, pay their way, work etc. Then I could go to Spain once a month.

But alas, we're all different. The HB lot don't have big luxuries, contrary to what u might read. If they do buy some cans of lager, they miss out on other things.

by Robert Mellors

8:52 AM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mick Roberts" at "15/04/2017 - 07:25":

Hi Mick

Yes the unemployment rate is somewhere around that figure, but many people in work also receive welfare benefits (though government chooses to call most of these "tax credits" so as to fool the population into thinking it is something different). Then of course there is the "pension" and "pension credit" and other welfare benefits paid to the elderly and this is by far the largest part of the total welfare benefit bill. So when Sam says that one half is paying for the other half, he may be exaggerating, but it is still a large amount and a large percentage. The problem is that around 80% of the total welfare bill is to those over pension age, so whatever the total amount/percentage is, it is the benefits to pensioners that is the major cost, but no political party wants to mention or deal with this as it will lose them votes.

by sam

11:51 AM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "15/04/2017 - 01:33":

Sorry my attitude disgust you Robert.

You are not the only one whos been there. My father left us when I was 6 months old. Mine was a single mom in a third world country where benefits wasnt in the dictionary. I worked through my university years to pay for my education because the state didnt pay for my fees nor gave me a loan. My wife and I waited 5 years to have kids. Both of us held down 3 jobs at a time (and went to night school) when we had to. There were plenty a time when life was a bit hard but neither of us have ever considered ourselves destitute enough, or qualified, to claim off the state. May be we didnt know our rights but we knew to cut our cloth to suit. I know a few others who went through the same struggle as we did. Some worse. So please get off your high horse my friend and lets not turn an intellectual discourse into a personal argument.

I dont know whether the benefits cap works or not but the whole benefits system is wrong in the first place (though it may have started right) and I believe, I hope, this cap is only the first step to righting it. Of course you see pain and injustice. Doing anything the second time is always more difficult, more painful and more expensive. But is the system we now have just ?

Give a man a fish and keep giving it forever. Give a man a crutch and cripple him forever. That creates 2 sets of victims. Only way is to help him learn how to fish. As it is, life doesnt get better than here. Think immigrant. Why is the world beating a path to these shores. A bit of tough love will benefit everybody in the long run.

Besides, there are people who are paying for others to live in places they themselves cant afford to live and enjoying things they themselves cant give their kids. Is that justice ? What is right for some who need to be supported is not necessarily right for the others who are forced to do the supporting. The bottom line is : when you receive without working for it, somebody else has to work without receiving. He who worked without receiving may may one day decide to join he who received without working. Then there will be 2 who need supporting and none to do the supporting. There will come a time, and soon enough, when even you cant afford to be charitable. I believe society attitude towards benefits is changing and will continue to change.
God willing, may be we should revisit this topic in 10 years time. May be you wont think my attitude so high and mighty then.

by sam

11:52 AM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mick Roberts" at "15/04/2017 - 07:25":

Sorry my attitude disgust you Robert.

You are not the only one whos been there. My father left us when I was 6 months old. Mine was a single mom in a third world country where benefits wasnt in the dictionary. I worked through my university years to pay for my education because the state didnt pay for my fees nor gave me a loan. My wife and I waited 5 years to have kids. Both of us held down 3 jobs at a time (and went to night school) when we had to. There were plenty a time when life was a bit hard but neither of us have ever considered ourselves destitute enough, or qualified, to claim off the state. May be we didnt know our rights but we knew to cut our cloth to suit. I know a few others who went through the same struggle as we did. Some worse. So please get off your high horse my friend and lets not turn an intellectual discourse into a personal argument.

I dont know whether the benefits cap works or not but the whole benefits system is wrong in the first place (though it may have started right) and I believe, I hope, this cap is only the first step to righting it. Of course you see pain and injustice. Doing anything the second time is always more difficult, more painful and more expensive. But is the system we now have just ?

Give a man a fish and keep giving it forever. Give a man a crutch and cripple him forever. That creates 2 sets of victims. Only way is to help him learn how to fish. As it is, life doesnt get better than here. Think immigrant. Why is the world beating a path to these shores. A bit of tough love will benefit everybody in the long run.

Besides, there are people who are paying for others to live in places they themselves cant afford to live and enjoying things they themselves cant give their kids. Is that justice ? What is right for some who need to be supported is not necessarily right for the others who are forced to do the supporting. The bottom line is : when you receive without working for it, somebody else has to work without receiving. He who worked without receiving may may one day decide to join he who received without working. Then there will be 2 who need supporting and none to do the supporting. There will come a time, and soon enough, when even you cant afford to be charitable. I believe society attitude towards benefits is changing and will continue to change.
God willing, may be we should revisit this topic in 10 years time. May be you wont think my attitude so high and mighty then.

by sam

12:42 PM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Mick Roberts" at "15/04/2017 - 07:25":

Mick
I am no expert but I read somewhere that the average hours worked by those on tax credit was 16.03 (apparently for very good reason) and 53% of households are nett receipient of government handout. Not sure if that implies the remaining 47% pay tax.

I agree these guys on benefits dont exactly live in luxury but then are the working people paying for them living any better ? Perhaps it is telling that my foreign visitors think this country is more communist than the communist and half the world is beating a path to these shores. Life in Old Blighty really doesnt get any better.

What you said about buying lager and miss out on other things is exactly right. My wife and I lived in a social housing flat when we first got married 41 years ago. 16 in the block. We were the only 2 working. Apart from 1 old retired couple the rest were young and able bodied. Some with kids. When I came home from my 2nd shift in the summer, I could see/hear them strumming guitars and swilling beer, and kids running riots. I have no issue with the lager bit. What they miss out on is spending state money on the kids education and thus raising another generation of drop outs. Its just self perpetuating. These kids will likely grow up to think paying rent is optional and somebody else will provide. Not their fault I know. But why is everybody else paying for it ?

And I agree with Robert about the voting system. It is all our own fault. The politicians have to bribe us with benefits to get elected. So they out do each other and that why we are where we are.


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