Harriet Harman. Source: Flickr.

Labour’s interim leader, Harriet Harman, has today (May 27th) announced her party’s support for the Tory policy of lowering the cap on state benefits.

The Conservatives revealed their intention to lower the benefit cap from £26,000 a year to £23,000 in the Queen’s speech.

Speaking in response to the government’s promise, Harriet Harman said she was “sympathetic’ to the idea of lowering the benefit cap by £3,000.

Labour supported the previous Tory-led coalition government’s policy to introduce a cap on benefit entitlement, but voiced concerns about lowering the cap.

Today’s apparent U-turn will add to the anger and despair felt by low-income families subjected to extortionate rents, many of whom looked to Labour in the general election to challenge the Tory austerity agenda.

Harriet Harman told members of parliament: “We support a cap on household benefit entitlement. The Government are now planning to reduce it.

“We are sympathetic to that, but it makes it even more important that the jobs are there for people to move into. The childcare is there, particularly for lone parents and there are adequate funds for discretionary housing payments.

She urged the government “to ensure that this doesn’t put children into poverty, increase homelessness or end up costing more than it saves.”

Labour’s manifesto included a pledge to establish an independent commission to consider the possibility of localised benefit caps.

The Children’s Society has described the benefit cap as a “blunt instrument”, which has resulted in “children having to leave their schools and friends and breaking vital support networks”.

Imran Hussain, Head of Policy at the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), said: “The benefit cap has pushed more children into poverty, breached international law and has done little to make work a more viable option for the families hit by it, with very few moving into work or to a new home.

“On the Government’s own terms, it has failed, producing negligible, if any, savings.

“Most of the parents affected are single mums or dads with children so young that even the Government thinks they should not have to work.

“Ministers have yet to make a case for a policy that the DWP’s own impact assessment reveals is nine times more likely to hit children than adults.

“A lower cap would undermine, not strengthen, family security.”