It’s Christmas, the season for repeats. Iain Duncan Smith has said again that the benefit cap is leading to lots of people seeking work. This is the same statement that led, earlier this year, to public criticism from the UK Statistics Authority, because no official statistics had been released to support this.
A DWP release at the beginning of December does claim that cumulatively 19,000 people ‘potentially’ affected by the benefit cap have moved into employment between May 2012 and November 2013. The release emphasises that it does not identify any additional movement into work. That is not surprising, because they sent out 89,000 letters, 19000 out of 89000 is 21%, and according to the DWP Tabtool 19.9% of working age claimants have claimed for less than six months anyway. It will be interesting to see any evidence that the benefits cap has made the blindest bit of difference, but we will have to wait for next February before the relevant data are published.
Duncan Smith is also quoted as saying that “A minority of people were able to claim mind-bogglingly high benefits with no incentive to work.” The numbers affected by the benefits cap are tiny, but I would be interested to know how many claimants affected by the benefit cap, if any, could be said to be better off not working. That is true because Housing Benefit, one of the key components of very high benefits, is marginally more generous to people in work than out of work.
An American commentator from the Cato Institute claims that Scrooge would have approved of condemning people to welfare dependency: has he actually read A Christmas Carol?
“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then? … I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.”
“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”
“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”
Meanwhile, it’s also been announced that this Christmas, owing to a DWP error, 32,000 claimants have not received benefits in time for the holiday. Enjoy the festive season.