Don't be fooled by benefits cap plan

Family When times are tough and everyone is working flat out just to cover their bills, announcing a vote on capping benefits taps into the nation's prejudices. But, the coalitions plans to change benefits comes at a cost for those in work.

A few weeks ago MPs voted on capping benefit rises for those of working age at 1%, which currently rise in line with inflation. It is part of the government's plan to make sure work pays, and it doesn't want benefits rising faster than wages.

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%It has already been forced to cap wage increases for public sector workers at 1% in a bid to rein in costs and now wants to reduce benefits as well.

The government is saying that those who are able to work will be targeted as jobseeker's allowance, employment and support allowance and income support, as well as elements of housing benefits will be capped at 1% for three years from April.

From a vote-winning point of view, this is a great ruse and plays on the idea of the 'scroungers' who are bleeding our country dry. Of course there are some people who don't want to work but most of the people on benefits are there because of circumstances beyond their control – maybe redundancy or illness – and they certainly aren't happy to be in that position.

But more worrying is how the cap would affect those who are working. According to Labour leader Ed Miliband, 70% of the people affected by the cap are in employment.

This is because of the huge scope of the cap. It is not just unemployment benefits that will be hit, so will working tax credits, maternity pay and sick pay.

This will impact everyday families enormously, meaning their benefits lose value because they don't rise in line with inflation.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith says the cap will clean up an 'outrageously messy system' that threatens to bankrupt the UK, but capping the benefit is not a full solution.

Yes, maybe we do need to cap some benefits that mean it's better for people to stay at home than go out to work but there has to be acknowledgement that it is dangerous to hit working families who are already struggling against stagnant wages and rising living costs.

Rather than trying to score easy points the government should really look at reforming the system to reward those who are contributing to society, not penalising them.
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