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Benefit cap victims should ‘move house’ or ‘take in a lodger’, says DWP minister

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A DWP minister is facing a fierce backlash after stating that households hit by the draconian benefit cap could “move house” or even “take in a lodger” to escape the cruel cap.

DWP pensions minister Justin Tomlinson was asked during an evidence session with the Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC) what the Department is support poor families who are “suffering” to cope with the benefit cap.

He told the influential cross-party group of MPs: “Some will have made other changes, including in their housing costs – whether that is either moving or renegotiating what their housing costs are, or they could have for example taken a lodger……”

Interrupting him, Labour MP Ruth George said: “Take in a lodger? These are large families, they’ve often got three children in one bedroom, how are they going to take in a lodger? Just look at reality here.”

The benefit cap limits the amount a household can receive in state benefits and was lowered in 2016 to £23,000 in London, or £20,000 in other parts of the UK.

Council housing dwarfed by London’s financial district. Photo: Oxfam.

Campaigners say the cap is an act of ‘social cleansing’ that forces low income households out of more expensive areas of the UK because of higher rent payments, which unfairly breaks up families and wrecks local communities.

David Smith, policy director at the Residential Landlords Association, said Mr Tomlinson’s comments demonstrate a degree of ignorance and a lack of understanding about tenancy agreements.

“It shows some limitations to his knowledge of the private rental sector – which I hope he will correct quickly”, he said.

Lib Dem welfare chief Stephen Lloyd MP said: “I think such a comment from a DWP minister is both ignorant of the rules and shockingly uncaring.

“Firstly if you’re in a council house or housing association property, you would be breaking the rules of your tenancy by taking in a lodger and subsequently may be evicted.

“Secondly such an uncaring statement shows a woeful lack of empathy for people who are often in financial dire straits.

“It also shows once again how often ministers in this government and the DWP are so out of touch with the daily realities of millions of poorer people across the country.”

WPSC chair Frank Field MP said: What it shows is ministers find defending the benefit cap difficult. Many people would be breaking they tenancy agreement to follow the minister’s advice.”

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