This week I am joining colleagues in highlighting some of the most appalling cuts we have seen under this Tory Government – many of which were introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016.
One that doesn’t get mentioned much is the benefit cap, possibly because it was previously introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012. However the new cap is both particularly punitive and, shockingly, entirely arbitrary. Introduced from November 2016, the new benefit cap imposes a threshold on household social securityincome by up to £6,000 a year (£3,000 a year in London).
To illustrate – imagine you are earning £26,000. The next day, it goes down by £6,000. The average cost of renting in Scotland for a two-bed property is £643 – so this is a loss of about nine months’-worth of rent.
And what’s more, this cut is nothing more than a figure plucked out of the air by DWP Ministers – with absolutely no consideration of the fact that it is almost a 25% cut in income for disadvantaged people.
We must also pay particular attention to the fact that austerity overwhelmingly disproportionately impacts women. When money is tight women are expected to take on the burden of caring for children or elderly relatives – preventing women, and especially single mothers, from entering employment and earning money. We also need to understand the implications of this for women who are at risk of domestic violence – women with little financial independence can be trapped in violent or abusive relationships as they have nothing to fall back on, a horrifying prospect.
It is clear the benefit cap has, in particular, impacted women. As at November 2017, of single parents capped by the benefit cap – 43,584 were women, whereas only 1,020 were men.
In particular households with children are most affected by the benefit cap, with almost all capped households (93%) including children. 83% had between 1 and 4 children and 10% had 5 or more children. A shocking 7 in 10 of all capped households are single-parent families, and 77% of single-parent capped households have at least one child aged under 5 years.
Appallingly, it took a court ruling to force the Tories to exempt Carer’s Allowance from the cap, after it was found to unlawfully discriminate against them.
The Tories need to look at the overwhelming evidence that their policies are doing real damage to people at a time where the cost of living continues to rise. They cannot go on making the most disadvantaged in society bear the brunt of their ideological austerity.