Iain Duncan Smith says welfare cap is helping to end ‘benefit dependency’
However official figures show the number of families affected is much smaller than originally expected.
Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said on Monday that his welfare cap was helping to end “benefit dependency”, even though official figures have shown that the number of families so far affected is much smaller than originally expected.
In a statement issued by the Department for Work and Pensions, Duncan Smith said that 19,000 people potentially affected by the cap had been helped into work and that this illustrated “our commitment to support those who want to work hard and get on, and to end benefit dependency”.
He made the claim ahead of facing MPs on the Commons work and pensions committee, who are expected to question him over the DWP’s use of statistics and universal credit, as well as wider welfare matters.
He avoided claiming that the 19,000 had found work as a direct result of the cap, having been reprimanded by the UK Statistics Authority earlier this year for claiming that there was a causal link between it and people finding work.
He also glossed over the revelation in official DWP statistics that only 28,500 households have had their benefits capped so far. Originally the DWP said it expected 67,000 households to be affected by the policy.
The welfare cap means that workless families will not be able to claim more £26,000 a year in benefits, a level set because it represents the average working family income. It was piloted in four London boroughs in the spring, and rolled out nationwide by the end of September.
Duncan Smith published figures showing that, between May and the beginning of November, 19,000 people living in households potentially affected by the cap found work.
“We had to fix the broken welfare system,” he said in the statement. Official DWP figures show that, of the 28,500 households that had had their benefits capped by October, 47% of them were in London. The two cities most affected outside London were Birmingham and Manchester.
According to the DWP, among households being capped in October, 75% of were losing £100 a week or less. Some 59% were households with between one and four children, and 37% with five or more children.
The TUC said on Monday it will pile further pressure on the work and pensions secretary by claiming that figures released by the Office for Budget Responsibility last week at the time of the autumn statement showed hardly anyone will be receiving universal credit in 2014-15, even though the DWP originally expected 1.5 million people to be on it by then.
And in 2015-16, just 400,000 people are due to be receiving the new benefit, even though 4.5 million people were due to be claiming it at that stage.
Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “Universal credit has already wasted million of pounds worth of taxpayers’ money and caused real anxiety amongst those who will supposedly be affected by it, even though it could still be years away from implementation.”
She also said that it had “fundamental design flaws” that meant many low-paid workers would be no better off in work if they were claiming universal benefit.
On Thursday last week, two hours before the autumn statement, Duncan Smith announced that he would not meet his original deadline for having all claimants on universal benefit by 2017.