15 Jul 2013

Benefits cap of £500-a-week begins

Political Editor

The new benefits cap, meaning couples and lone parents can receive no more than £500 a week from the state, is rolled out from Monday. But David Cameron’s Twitter endorsement of the cap backfires.

The cap applies to everyone claiming benefits aged 16 to 64, and is the biggest change to the welfare system since the 1940s.

The payments affected include jobseeker’s allowance, child and housing benefits, but not the new disability living allowance or widower’s pension.

Couples and lone parents will not receive more than £500 a week under the new cap, with single people limited to £350 a week.

‘Making work pay’

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith defended the new cap by saying it will return fairness to the benefits system.

It is part of a larger drive by the coalition government to “make work pay”, so that those in work are always earning more than those on benefits.

But critics say imposing the cap will force those on benefits into poverty, and to move away from areas like London, where rents are unaffordable.

The cap has been piloted in four London boroughs since April – Haringey, Enfield, Croydon and Bromley – and will be rolled out across the UK, except Northern Ireland, by 30 September.

Read more on FactCheck: how will the new benefits cap work?

Effects of the cap

Mr Duncan Smith said that a “very, very significant number” of people had gone out to work in affected households within the four London boroughs where the cap has already been implemented.

Mr Duncan Smith told the BBC that the “greatest effect” of the benefits cap would be in London and the south east.

“The key principle behind this all over the country is that those who work, those who are trying to do the best in their households, do not see others who are down the road, who are on benefits, on welfare, actually getting more than they do,” he said.

The prime minister was keen to voice his support for Mr Duncan Smith on Monday morning. But he managed to endorse a spoof account for the work and pensions secretary in a tweet.

In response, @IDS_MP tweeted: “Chin chin Dave. Round mine for a Pimms later?”

Unfortunately for David Cameron, previous tweets from @IDS_MP include: “a thrifty way to keep cool in this heat wave is to dab the ice from your Champagne bucket onto your forehead” and “I’m getting a silk handkerchief embroidered with gold braid saying ‘in it together’ with my pay rise”.