82% of households hit by the Tories’ callous benefit cap are unable to work

Jobcentre Plus sign.

The Work and Pensions Committee has today published the Government’s response to its report on the Benefit Cap, as a legal challenge brought by two single mums against the hateful policy is defeated at the Supreme Court.

The Committee’s report found that 82% of households currently hit by the benefit cap have already been assessed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as not being required to work or even to look for it.

This includes people with disabilities or health conditions, and single parents of young children.

Photo: Paula Peters

The report called on the UK Government must exclude these households from scope of the benefit cap, and only apply it to the 18% that the DWP has assessed as capable and expected to look for work.

Committee Chair Frank Field noted at the time that “benefits are being cut with the aim of driving people into work, but four in five people bearing this cut aren’t expected to work. What genius in government thought this one up?”

However, the Government has rejected this recommendation, arguing that the aims of the policy still apply and were scrutinised and extensively debated in Parliament.

The DWP seemed to ignore that there is little evidence that the cap is encouraging vulerable people into work, and goes on to cite the number of lone parent households that have moved off the cap as proof that it is possible to escape the cap, despite agreeing that the number of households moving into work cannot be directly attributed to the cap.

Frank Field said: “I couldn’t have put it better than Lady Hale in her original ruling: the prejudicial effect of the cap is obvious and stark.

“As we on the Committee have argued repeatedly, families affected by the cap will, by definition, receive an income that is far short of what they need to house, feed, clothe and warm themselves and their children – and that’s if you believe benefits are at that “adequate” level in the first place.

“Just as we thought the persistence with this policy could not become any more shocking, the Government has kept on fighting a ruling from the highest court in the land which found that it cannot possibly be in the best interests of children affected by the cap, to deprive their family of the means to cover the basic necessities of life.”

Photo: Paula Peters

The news comes as a case by two single mums failed at the Supreme Court in London.

The two single mums are affected by the cap due to their caring responsibilities. One of the claimants has children with significant health needs while the other has previously fled domestic violence.

Neither of the women are able to work more than a few hours due to their caring responsibilities, meaning they are unable to escape the benefit cap.

The women were supported at court by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), who argued the cap discriminates against lone parents because of their inability to free themselves from it.

However, the Supreme Court ruled that the policy is lawful, even though the two single mums have been left hundreds of a pounds a month worse off.

Responding to the decision, CPAG’s Head of Strategic Litigation Carla Clarke said: “The Supreme Court’s judgment is hugely disappointing. The UK’s highest court has upheld a law and a policy that is increasing poverty while failing to deliver on its principal aim of work incentivisation.

“Only 5% of capped households are more likely to move into work because of the cap – with the large majority not otherwise being required to work because of young children or an illness or disability.

“Almost three quarters of capped households are lone parent families where one adult, usually a mother, is both the main breadwinner and carer.

“There are very real and practical reasons, recognised by the court, as to why such a lone parent struggles to find sufficient work to escape the cap.

“Yet, while failing to achieve its aim of getting such lone parents into work because of those wider obstacles they face, the cap, in the words of the court, ‘push[es] a family well below the poverty line.’

“We continue to believe that the cap is structurally flawed and that pushing families who can’t work deeper into poverty is totally unacceptable.

“We would like to pay tribute to our two clients who were prepared to see this legal challenge through not just for their own families but in the hope of ensuring that others did not have to face similar hardships.”