Capping benefits needs to be the start of welfare reform

Coins MPs' salaries must be too high if a former minister believes that a proposed £500-a-week cap on benefits is 'immoral'; most households would love to take that home each month.

Former children's minister Sarah Teather said that the government announcing a plan to cap household benefits was to 'deliberately stoke up envy and division between people in order to gain popularity at the expense of children's lives is immoral. It has no good intent'.

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%I'm not sure that those working full-time on the average wage, receiving no benefits and struggling to cover increasingly expensive monthly bills would agree.

The average salary in the UK is just £26,100, which means a take-home wage of £1690 a month, whereas the £500-a-week in benefits roughly equates to a salary of £31,500 a year.

This is a salary a lot of people can only hope to achieve. Much has been made about how taxing the rich perpetuates the 'politics of envy' but if someone is taking home £2,000 a month in benefits that envy may be directed lower down the scale.

The government is struggling to fill a £48 billion black-hole in the public deficit and it is only realistic that it has to cut somewhere. The middle already feels like it is being squeezed for all it is worth and so the next logical place the government will look is at benefits – it has already cut child benefit and others are sure to follow.

The fact is that many people cannot help falling on hard times and it is only right that those who can afford to ensure the welfare of those who are struggling. While most people are anxious to stop claiming benefits and get back to work, there are some for who work does not pay as well as benefits.

Capping benefits at £500-a-week doesn't seem like a terrible amount to live off of, assuming you are entitled to the full £500, there are of course people living on much less. The key to benefit reform isn't just capping the cost it is ensuring there is suitable training in place for those who want to re-enter the workplace and that work pays.

Capping benefits is just the start of what needs to be long-term reform of benefits. The key will be for this government to ensure that work pays and that living off the state is not more beneficial that getting out and earning a crust.
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