Why Shouldn’t Single Mothers Face A Benefits Cap Of Around Median National Income?

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Much chuntering from the welfareocracy here as it is revealed that 85% of those who face the benefits cap are single mothers – to which the reasonable response is good, that’s the point. For sure, we do indeed have a duty to make sure that in a rich society like ours no one is truly poor nor destitute. That’s not quite the same as agreeing to provide a better than average lifestyle to those who aren’t pulling their own weight. The crucial points to understand here being that the benefits cap does in fact only apply to benefits, not total income in a household, further, that the cap is set at around average income for the country.

That is, complaints about how people are being affected must, by definition, be complaints that those reliant upon the taxes of others should be getting higher than average incomes. Which isn’t quite how most people see this thing working really.

The vast majority of people being penalised by the government’s benefit cap are single mothers, new analysis has found. According to Department for Work and Pensions data examined by the Labour party, single females with at least one dependent child make up over 85% of all householders who have had their benefits capped. Records show that 134,044 households have had support capped by the government, with single mothers accounting for 114,337 of those. They appear to show a significant jump from August last year, when nearly 50,000 single parents were reportedly facing a drop in benefits due to the cap. The benefit cap, which limits the total amount households can receive in benefits to £20,000 a year, or £23,000 in Greater London, was envisaged as an “incentive” to persuade unemployed people to move into work.

Well, yes, this is how it is supposed to be working. For there’s an interesting question here – should someone on benefits have a higher standard of living than someone working for their living? There’s no obvious correct answer to that, it depends upon what the rest of us think about it really.

Note that the benefits cap is a cap upon benefits. It’s how much of our money gets sent to these single mothers. It’s not a limit upon individual or household income. So, there’s always the opportunity for a little bit of work to be done to raise that income. Or even possibly that the fathers of these children might like to chip in a bit to raise their children. This is not to ask too much, is it?

And then there’s the level of that benefits cap. As it happens median household income – the income upon which 50% of all UK households have less, 50% more – is around the £25,000 mark. Not accurate but close enough. Further, the median income for a worker is around £22,000. So, our benefits cap – note again, benefits only – is a little under that median income. How much below?

Well, say that lower cap, that household median income. We’re asking that, in order for single mothers on benefits to get up to average incomes for the country, there’s another £100 a week coming in. Call that say 15 hours paid labour at minimum wage. Doing a few nails for the neighbourhood. A couple of shifts pulling pints. Or even we might ask that fathers pump in £30 to £50 a week to aid in raising their own children. It’s difficult to see that these are outrageous demands really.

Yes, parts of the benefit system do allow modest earnings without reducing benefits. And child support from other parents is not counted as income limiting benefits.

But it does depends upon what we all think out here. And there’s an interesting piece of guidance for us.

The first part of the benefits cap that was announced and introduced was that upon housing benefit. I well recall the Guardian article chuntering about how disgusting this was. I also recall the reaction below the line. The cap announced was £400 or so. And at first the comments were, well, £400? Can’t rent anything for a month for that, how appalling! Then it was gently pointed out – I might have had something to do with it – that the cap was £400 per week. At which point the outrage went entirely the other way. What? There are people getting more than £400 a week HB? £1,600 a month and more? But that’s more than I damn well earn and I’m paying tax on that for this?

Well, yes, you were. And that’s the thing. When people understand quite how generous the benefits system used to be there’s a great deal of support for the payouts to be capped. And so there is the cap – which is how it should be in a democracy, isn’t it? We get to decide how we’re taxed and how much we’re taxed to pay for what and how much upon whom? And if our decision and desire doesn’t match that of the welfareocracy it’s bully for them then, isn’t it?

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ian parkinson
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ian parkinson

The council house next door to me would rent for 1000 per week. Sadly the old lady who lived there has recently passed away. The million dollar question – will the council sell it (and buy 2 houses of similar size elsewhere in the same borough), or will some lucky family get to rent it for a pittance? You have to earn roughly 75k to have 50k after tax. So if the property is rented at a de minimis figure then this is the same as gifting someone three times the annual average wage. Also see Resolution Foundation claim yesterday… Read more »

literate3
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literate3

This is a bit like “If I wanted to go to Dublin, I shouldn’t start from here”. Benefits are to help those in need to avoid dire poverty and any system which decides that someone with a higher-than-median income is “in need” is cracked. The Labour Party talks about single mothers with one or more dependant child implying that it includes a lot of two-person households so £22k is well above the median income for *that size of household”. The mother is being subsidised by working people with lower equivalised incomes while doing no paid work and less unpaid wiork… Read more »