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Benefit cap "damaging", says Churches

The Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) has spoken out against the Benefit cap, which 'overwhelmingly targets families with children'

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The Benefit cap is the limit on the total amount of benefits a family can receive, currently set at £26,000 per year.

New Benefit cap statistics have revealed that 19 out of 20 families whose benefits were cut have children, and that over a quarter of a million children have been affected by the cap since it was introduced in April 2013.

Additionally, the majority of families affected were accepted as not being able to work due to illness, disability or caring responsibilities.

Despite this JPIT said that the Government claims that the Benefit cap is designed to get people into work, while also acknowledging that most families affected have illness or caring responsibilities that prevent them from working.

'It is clear that the Benefit Cap overwhelmingly targets children,' said JPIT Policy Adviser Paul Morrison.

'It cannot be morally acceptable to leave children without enough to live on in order to pressurise their parents into work. This is doubly true if those parents have no prospect of moving into work because they are sick or caring for family members.'

He continued, 'Over 2,000 single parents with babies under a year of age had their Housing Benefit cut because of the cap each month. Does the Government seriously expect that cutting Housing Benefit will make it easier for them to find work?'

From the Monday 7 November the Benefit cap will be reduced to £23,000 in London and £20,000 for the rest of the UK. This will increase the number of families affected and spread the impact of the cap more widely throughout the UK.

Paul said the lower Benefit cap could be "disastrous" for tens of thousands more children throughout the country.

'We know, from our experience on the ground and the Government’s own research, [3] that the Benefit Cap drives people into rent arrears, debt and hunger.'

In November 2015 a coalition of Churches published the report “Enough” supporting the principle families should have enough to live on. The report argued that benefits should be set at a level that meets a family’s basic needs and should not be eroded by the Benefit cap or the two-child rule introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2016.

A YouGov survey commissioned by the Churches revealed that 61 per cent of UK adults believe that welfare benefits should be set at a level that allows families with children to cover their basic costs. 

The Joint Public Issues Team combines the expertise of the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church in the area of public issues, representing more than 800,000 people in the UK.

For the full statement visit: http://methodist-news.org.uk/BVI-4L6JP-72JBQZ5296/cr.aspx

Baptist Times, 03/11/2016
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