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Benefit cap is unfair to children, says bishop

19 July 2013

PA

"No more blank cheques": the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, attends Prime Minister's Question, in the House of Commons, on Wednesday

"No more blank cheques": the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, attends Prime Minister's Question, in the House of Commons, on We...

THE timing of the introduction of the household benefit cap was "ironic", the Bishop of Dudley, the Rt Revd David Walker, said this week, given that the Old Testament reading at morning prayer was the assurance in Ezekiel 18 that the sins of the father would not be visited on the child.

"My concern over the welfare cap is that it is predominantly going to be children who are the victims of it," he said on Tuesday. "It will hit a relatively small number of larger families, often with the most complex needs. . . Children do not choose how many brothers and sisters they have got. . . We do not punish children for the misdeeds of their parents."

The Government announced its plan to cap total household benefits in 2010, with the objective of restricting the total amount of money a non-working household can receive to the average earned income of working households. The policy came into force on Monday. It is expected to affect 40,000 households, mostly large families and those in high-rent areas. Half are in Greater London. Affected households will lose an average of £93 a week.

The policy has also proved to be popular with the public. An Ipsos MORI poll of 2017 people, conducted in June, found that 70 per cent supported the cap. By a margin of 2.5 to 1, respondents said that the benefits system was too generous, as opposed to not generous enough.

On Monday, the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said: "Returning fairness to the welfare state in this country is long overdue. . .The days of blank-cheque benefits are over, and the benefit cap is a key part of this."

Over the past year, Jobcentre Plus has contacted claimants affected by the benefit cap to offer support. The Department for Work and Pensions reported on Monday that more than 12,000 had moved into work and 32,300 had accepted employment support by June. The leader of Haringey Council, however, one of four areas where the cap has been piloted, said that 740 families in the borough had been severely financially disadvantaged, but only 34 family members had found work.

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