Benefit Cap

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2014 National Women's Conference
18 October 2013

This conference believes that the Government’s austerity measures are purely an attack on the working class and that women are more likely to be feeling the detrimental impact of any Welfare Reform. Women rely more on tax credit and benefits than men, in particular due to their caring responsibilities, relative economic inequalities and poverty. According to the Fawcett Society, “66% of the savings from the Benefit Cap will come from women”.

Universal Credit has to some degree dominated the headlines and shifted the focus away from the incoming benefit cap which is targeted at out-of-work-families. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimates that about 67,000 households will be affected by the measure in 2013/14 rising to 75,000 in 2014/15. This means that in 2013/14 – 80,000 adults and 190,000 children will be affected.

The amount of benefit payable to single people will be limited to £350 per week and to couples (with or without children) and lone parents it will be limited to £500 per week. This includes payment of housing costs. In real terms this means a loss of income and in fact the DWP estimates that affected households will lose an average of £93 a week (mean) or £63 a week (median). 20% of those affected are expected to lose more than £150 a week.

If, as a single person or family you are getting more than the benefit cap, your Housing Benefit is reduced to make sure that the total amount of your benefit is not more than the cap. This means you will have to use money from your other benefits to pay towards the rent for your home. Inevitably this will lead to a social cleansing of the areas where housing is the most expensive but in the interim, families will either go without the basics in order to pay their rent or they will fall into rent arrears and ultimately be evicted. Given that single women, many of whom are single parents make up 50% of recipients of housing benefit (with couples making up 20% and single men making up 20%) the cap on benefits will hit women harder.

In addition, and because the emphasis is on getting people back into work, it will also force many women into work in order to claim Working Tax Credits and be exempt from the cap. Yet to be eligible for Working Tax Credits you have to be on a low income and be working over a conditional amount of hours. This will place a heavy burden on single parent families the majority of whom are women, who will be most likely to be taking on the worst jobs, zero hour contacts, low salary, poor terms and conditions. As a consequence of the coalition government reducing the amount of childcare costs the state will cover for low income families, finding affordable childcare is an additional concern.

We therefore ask the National Women’s Committee to;

1)Raise the profile specifically on the Benefit Cap, its workings and its likely impact. This may include a fact sheet for members as well as signposting to UNISON Services such as ‘There for You’

2)Conduct appropriate research on its impact.

3)To use the findings of any research to campaign against any adverse impact on women which may ultimately include an overhaul of the legislation.