Sunday, 01 March 2015

Peer tables amendment for benefit cap exemption

A Labour peer has called for the total benefits cap to not apply in cases where it puts a person at risk of homelessness.

Lord William McKenzie, has tabled an amendment to the Welfare Reform Bill, which will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday. The bill seeks to cap total housing benefits in line with the average estimated earnings for working households.

Lord McKenzie’s amendment would exempt individuals or couples from the proposed £26,000 household benefit cap who ‘as a result of the benefit cap, the relevant local authority would consider threatened with homeless and in priority need, or are owed a duty to be provided with interim or temporary accommodation.’

The amendment is one of several tabled by peers concerned about the fairness of the cap as it stands.

Other amendments tabled seek to:

  • exclude child benefit from the total benefits cap
  • introduce a 26-week period grace period once a claimants benefits exceed the cap
  • exclude claimants entitled to a carer’s allowance
  • exclude people in temporary accommodation

The government has already suffered a defeat over plans to reduce housing benefit for underoccupying social housing tenants and has lost three votes on plans to restrict Employment and Support Allowance.

Number 10 confirmed this week that the government will seek to overturn all amendments to the bill.

Readers' comments (10)

  • I thought the whole purpose of the bill was to make people homeless because we didn't want to pay their rent?

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  • F451

    It seems a perfectly sensible and humane amendment - let's see why the Government reject it.

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  • What is the point of introducing a bill to restrict benefits for large workless families that need more than £26k in benefits if the bill is then going to exclude large workless families in receipt of more than £26k in benefits from being affected by said bill.

    Orwellian surrealism at it's best! They might as well just scrap it and let the gravy train continue unhindered - we can always print more money ad infinitum to pay for all this largesse...

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  • Joe Halewood

    Maria - a gravy train? Largesse? Can anyone tell me what percentage of benefit recipients exceed the current cap? Just as I write IDS is on BBC News saying 50,000 they estimate exceed the cap (and of course hes not going to underestimate is he!!)

    With 5.8m claiming CTB alone lets say just 8m people claiming CTB and welfare benefits then 50000 represents at most 0.6% exceed this cap and of course 99.4% dont.

    We also know that just 0.3% exceed the HB caps 14303 out of 4.9m.

    Its not Orwellian its closer to Kafka legislating against 0.3% of the population or even a Whitehall farce. This government would have us believe this 'gravy train' is endemic and wide-ranging when it clearly is not. How much time and money has this coalition spent on this propoganda is a far more relevant enquiry?

    However the real issue is introducing grand ideas that sound good and spin well without impact assessments yet subject them to the tiniest scrutiny and they dont stand up. Add to that of course that Universal Credit was designed by the think tank that IDS set up and funded to come up with his place in history; rather than be remembered for his initials being referred to as "In Da Sh*t" - and thats what his party members called him - and you see the real issue.

    Largesse oblige

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  • The bedroom tax is a totally regressive tax,which
    penalises unsuspecting tenants who have signed
    contracts with their landlord,entered into in good faith.
    Local councils allocate homes to tenants based on
    their needs using a points system and then using
    a waiting list.If a tenants family circumstances
    have changed many years later ,its not their fault,
    but they are being penalised for this occurence.
    Its then very difficult to try to seek transfers / or
    exchanges to another council home,which may
    involve more time on waiting lists.

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  • Rick Campbell

    IDS says the benefit cap are not a punishment amd people are not suffering under his reforms.

    He reckons that the cap isaimed to make lives better by reducing dependency.

    I don't think that reducing dependency on food will make any lives better.

    I can see why some people may like to see him trying successfully to reduce his dependency on air.

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  • Jon Southall

    Rick - what about reducing dependency on the state?

    Lord William McKenzie is saying there will be circumstances when it is impossible to find a roof, food, fuel and other essentials with £26k. Hardly surprising coming from a peer of a political party with a history of money burning. I'd like to see some evidence of cases where it is not possible for a couple or individuals to live with £26k. There are many households that seem to manage on much less (as £26k is the median household income, about 50% of households earn up to this amount).

    I think the policy of rewarding those who reduce their housing costs is a sound one, and given this the proposed amendment is unhelpful. I understand the intention, but it seems like a fear that is unfounded.

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  • If it is not possible for some families on benefits to cope unless they have a benefit income of more than £26k per annum, presumably we should be topping up the pay of anyone with a household income from work of £35k (which equates to £26k after tax and NI). Why assume that people who actually work can afford to live on £26k but those on benefits need more protection than workers?

    And if we are to continue paying people to have children they cannot afford, then where does this end? Should there be no caps whatsoever and households can claim as much as they like? If that is the case, what is to stop all workers from just quitting their jobs as I am sure most would rather be home with their families than up at 6am in the cold and rain, if they knew their income would not fall if they did not work and had a few more children.

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  • Rick Campbell

    "people are not suffering under his reforms."

    Vulnerable and/or physically disabled people who are 'having a good day' at the time of assessment but get their ESA stopped and set off on the road to a successful appeal have to suffer a great drop in the amount they have to live on --

    -- as little as £36 per week (according to anecdotal evidence) including costs of electricity (for lighting and cooking), gas (for heating and hot water) and water

    -- if the running costs were the same as mine that's £7, £9 and £6 weekly (give or take about 50p) --

    --- that would leave around £14/£15 for food, clothing. etc.

    Not an awful lot, despite the prospect of a backdating of the 'suspended' finances months and months along the line?

    IDS's reforms ARE hurting people, not hurting him of course -- so that's fine by him then!

    Food is something we all depend on to live, we need to be warm -- so what does a person do -- heat or eat. For some it is a very hard decision and all so very often there then comes another option -- use some of the Housing Benefit money for food and clothing or maybe the luxury of having a bath and/or having the heating on for a while.

    These are genuine dilemmas facing real people, they are not some scenario dreamt up to make a point -- what I have unfolded above is an ongoing real life scenario!

    People with mental health issues “booted off ESA” ARE suffering … with all hope lost what would a suicidal person do?

    Perhaps that’s the agenda of the government and its acolytes?

    IDS says, “These reforms are bout people changing their lives, to give them a chance that through work, through employment, through positive action they can change lives”

    How can people who have had breakdowns and/or who are immobile for much of the time get a job especially if there aren’t even the jobs around in the first place) -- you can imagine an employer taking on someone who cannot walk and/or is likely to go into meltdown?

    It appears that in IDS’s head that’s taking positive action -- perhaps he should seek the services of a medical professional, but he won’t because he is quite well set up and fortunate thank you very much.

    Families suffer hardships if there is cause to leave the family home and live in specialised support accommodation because of family violence and/or abuse. Costs of such specialised/supported accommodation can, in some areas be very costly and could mean the cap triggers another heat or eat situation or even a use of the HB as indicated earlier.

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  • Jon Southall

    I hear what you are saying Rick. However, if you are claiming £26k in benefits, it is very possible for you to eat, have heating, clothing and all other necessities. Up to half of UK households manage it on as much, or less. It is many of those households that Lord McKenzie will be expecting to meet the unlimited claims of households that can't manage it.

    I think, and have said before, support given to others should be given voluntarily by those who have the means to give it. If, in your example, you feel the support on offer to people in the circumstances you describe is not sufficient, you should be free to offer more support as reflects your priority, instead of having your priorities set for you by the Government.

    With technology available today, the possibilities to fund services of our choosing is well within reach, and would result in the reduction of the cost to us of the state who currently makes and implements these decisions on our behalf (though often in a non-representative manner). This would increase the overall sums we have available to put into services we personally think are important, and you would know the people you care about would be getting the most help you can give them.

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