Bleak week for benefit claimants

Tue, 02/04/2013 - 20:43 -- nick

This month sees some of the government's biggest benefit cuts since it came to power in 2010.

According to the Child Poverty Action Group, 42 benefit changes will be made, including some affecting millions of people.

Those that particularly affect unemployed people include:

1) Benefit cap (introduced 15th April) - 56,000 families will lose an average of £93 per week, through the maximum a family can receive in working age benefits being limited to the national average wage of £500 per week, and a single person being limited to £350 per week

2) Housing benefit - 660,000 households will lose an average of £14 per week, through spare bedrooms being taxed (one spare will lead to the loss of 14% of housing benefit, two or more will mean losing 25% of housing benefit), while a cap means claimants will be limited to receiving housing benefits equivalent to the value of the cheapest 30% of rents in their area. The majority of claimants are working people

3) Benefit uprating - 4.1 million people will lose an average of 93p, through all working age benefits being increased by 1% instead of the rate of inflation (which would have seen benefits rise by 2.2%). Although the initial loss is small, the government plans to restrict increases to 1% for each of the next three years regardless of the inflation rate

4) Council tax benefit - 3.1 million households will lose an average of £2.64, through council tax support being set locally instead of nationally and reduced. The majority of claimants are working people

The biggest change to those affected is the general benefit cap. Households claiming working age benefits can ill afford to lose £93 each week, and the basis on which the average income is worked out - all of claimants' income is counted while workers' benefits are not - means the fairness argument is not based on strong foundations.

Although many benefit reductions are small, their application to some of the poorest people in the UK mean they are likely to have a big effect, with food banks preparing for an increase in need. The largest UK food bank, The Trussell Trust, fed more than twice as many people in 2012 as it did in 2011.

The Trust's executive chairman, Chris Mould, called the 1% uprating of benefits "short sighted" and accused the government of lacking empathy with the poor.

April will also see the first pilot for the new Universal Credit system before its nationwide launch in October. This system will see some better off and some worse off, and UnemployedNet will report back on the progress of the pilot when it is known.

All 42 benefit changes can be found here.

All figures above taken from the BBC website.

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