New benefits cap affecting 3,500 Sheffield children ‘is despicable’, says city MP

Louise Haigh MP outside Parliament
Louise Haigh MP outside Parliament
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A Government crackdown on the amount of benefits one family can claim affecting 3,500 Sheffield children is ‘despicable’, a city MP has said.

The benefit cap reduces the amount of welfare a family can receive from £23,000 to £20,000.

The changes will come into force in Sheffield on January 16.

Housing benefit being paid out to city residents on low incomes will save the Government £2.3m a year and will affect around 900 households, leaving some families almost £50 a week worse off.

When Sheffield households claiming benefits are moved on to Universal Credit as a replacement for Jobseekers’ Allowance, the amount saved by the Government in the city will be £3.4m.

The Government has said the benefit cap is an incentive to get back into work but Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh branded the changes ‘devastating’ and ‘despicable’.

The cap was originally introduced in Sheffield in August 2013 and was initially set at £26,000 a year for families and £16,800 for single people.

A Sheffield Council report said the cap will now drop to £20,000 per year for families and single parents and £13,400 for single people.

The report said: “A lower benefit cap, which limits the amount of income an out-of-work family can receive in benefits, will take effect in January 2017, taking the number of households affected by the cap from 113 to an estimated 900 households. In total, those households who will be affected by the reduced benefit cap contain 3,446 children.”

Heeley MP Louise Haigh said: “This cap will hit children hard and could lead to an increase in rent arrears for families who have nothing left in the bank. Rather than punishing the very poorest, the Tories would do well to focus on boosting wages here in Sheffield where many haven’t had a pay-rise for nearly a decade and work long hours just to get by.

“Many people hit by the latest cap have been made redundant through no fault of their own and rather than helping them through a crisis, the Tories want to kick them when they’re down. Over 3,000 children will be pushed further into poverty as a result of this despicable move and the result for them could be devastating.”

A DWP spokesman said: “The cap provides a strong incentive for people to move into work and even with the new cap, households in Sheffield can still receive the equivalent of a pre-tax salary of £25,000. We know the cap is working. Latest figures show that 72 per cent of households capped since April 2013 in Yorkshire are no longer affected and over 1,700 have moved into work, reduced or no longer claim Housing Benefit.”