Monday, 15 July 2013

Does the cap fit?

Iain Duncan Smith tells us that a benefits cap of £26,000 will bring fairness to taxpayers and fairness to those who are out of work. Now this sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but why is it being given in benefits? This is the question that I want answering and it is the question that Iain needs to address if he wishes us to agree with him. Mr Micawber, a character in Charles Dicken's David Copperfield got it right when he said "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds nought and six, result misery."

£26,000 is figure which has not just been plucked out of the air. It is the average household income. However benefits are given for specific reasons, not because of average needs and if some people receive benefits greater than this amount then they must have needs greater than this amount. This is what I want to hear from Iain - which needs are being neglected, and when I know then I will give you an informed decision as to whether the benefits cap is a good thing.

Liam Byrne, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary speaks for the Labour Party when he tells us that the benefits cap is good in principle. So who are the people that are going to be affected and let down by the coalition and the Labour Party? Well the cap mainly affects people in London. It shouldn't be a question for people in the provinces who can't see a reason to need so much money. They may be able to live like a king on £350 per week but they don't realise that they wouldn't get that amount on benefits. What happens if housing costs are greater in your area? What happens if you have greater medical needs not covered by the medical exemptions? £26,000 may not have been plucked from the air - but it sounds as good a basis for choosing it as any other.

There's a timely article by Sarah Teather, just published, in, 5 hours ago as I type this. "Sarah Teather: Benefit cap is the worst kind of populism".

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