Wigan families having their benefits capped despite not being expected to work
The Government capped the benefits received by scores of Wigan families last year – despite telling them they were not expected to be looking for work.
The cap limits universal credit for households earning less than £658 a month and can be removed if they can earn more.
Figures provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show there were 88 families having their benefits capped in the Wigan constituency as of August.
Of these, 24 were not expected to be in work by the DWP, either due to health problems or caring duties – often for very young children.
Another 13 families were already in work, but did not earn enough to reach the threshold for the cap to be lifted.
In Wigan the benefit cap cuts the universal credit of affected families by an average of £189 a month.
The Makerfield constituency had 61 families with their benefits capped, with 25 of them not expected to be in work. Another 12 families were working but did not earn enough to reach the threshold. They were affected by an average of £198 a month.
There were 87 families having their benefits capped in the Leigh constituency, with 31 of them not expected to be in work and another 14 families not earning enough to reach the threshold. This affected families by an average of £170 a month.
In Bolton West, which includes Atherton, there were 92 families, including 27 not expected to be in work and 19 not earning enough for the cap to be lifted. This affected families by an average of £202 a month.
The figures were provided to the Child Poverty Action Group through Freedom of Information requests, which found more than one in three families across England, Scotland and Wales in receipt of universal credit were having their benefits capped while not being expected to work – 37,970 in total.
The charity's chief executive Alison Garnham said: "Our data demonstrates the fallacy that the benefit cap is a work incentive. How can it be when so many households caught by it are unable to take a job because of young children? It doesn’t incentivise work, it leaves children hungry.
"The Government’s position on the cap is incoherent. It must be removed before it harms more young lives."
The Government recently announced the benefit cap will be uprated in April by 10.1 per cent, in line with inflation.
CPAG said the cap would still be £225 a month lower in real terms than it was in 2016 due to it being frozen in previous years.
A DWP spokesman said there were 200,000 fewer children in absolute poverty after housing costs compared to 2019-2020and that many of the most vulnerable were exempt from the benefit cap.
They added: “From next month the annual benefit cap for a single parent will be more than £25,000 in London and £22,000 elsewhere in Great Britain. It balances fairness for taxpayers with providing a vital safety net and is designed to provide a strong work incentive, by ensuring that work pays.
“Many of the most vulnerable claimants – including those who are in receipt of universal credit because of a disability or health condition that prevents them from working – are exempt from the cap.”