‘Fairness’ was the word Lord Freud used to justify the lowering of the benefit cap. But there is no fairness to be found in a policy that ignores assessed need, mostly affects people who can’t work to increase their income, and hits households with children in 93 per cent of cases.
Today’s awful figures tells us several things. Child poverty is high. It’s rising – it’s jumped to 4 million. Two thirds of poor children come from working families. But perhaps the main lesson to take away is that we need to call time on the unfathomable Whitehall orthodoxy, driven by George Osborne but still in place under Theresa May, that rising child poverty is a price worth paying to protect our children.
For a Prime Minister who walked into Downing Street decrying the ‘burning injustice’ of poverty and contrasting the opportunities available to some children but not others, there was a disappointing omission in last week’s budget: child poverty.
Broken promises: What has happened to support for low-income working families under universal credit
Today’s Guardian covered new analysis by CPAG and IPPR on the impact of cuts to universal credit. This analysis shows that universal credit cuts will hit families with children hardest, and will be poverty-producing to the tune of around a million children (comparing universal credit as originally designed with its current form).
Today sees the benefit cap – the limit on total benefits which households can receive if no-one works at least 16 hours a week – fall from £26,000 a year to £20,000, or £23,000 in London. The 20,000 or so families currently capped will see their housing benefit reduced overnight by £500 or £250 a month, starting from today. That’s a huge amount to expect people to find from their other income, but most will have to do that or risk losing their home. For new households, the cap will be introduced in phases starting with local authorities with the fewest affected households and finishing with those with the most (such as Birmingham) in February 2017.