THE new year has started with a row in the House of Lords over the government’s Welfare Reform Bill and changes to the benefits system.
This is a subject on which I get a steady flow of emails from Thame residents.
There is a genuine sense of unfairness that the welfare system has been left in a mess, with too many people better off out of work and on benefits than if they entered the world of work.
Thame itself does not have large numbers on out of work benefits. The percentage on these benefits in South Oxfordshire is half the average for the South East. However, nationally, five million are on such benefits and almost two million children live in homes where nobody works.
People see it as unfair that benefit claimants can receive higher incomes than families who are in work. I agree. That’s why the government wants to introduce a cap on benefits – so that no family can get more on benefits than the average family does by going out to work.
That average and the amount of the cap is £26,000 per household per year.
It is important that in fixing this broken system we look after the really needy and vulnerable. The benefit cap will not affect the disabled or those who work and receive working tax credits.
There is no reason for anyone to be made homeless by these reforms when they can still receive the equivalent in benefits that someone in work would have to earn £35,000 a year to make.
The government’s reforms are popular because they are right. One poll showed 76 per cent approval for a cap. Even the Independent newspaper agreed. It asked why the people can recognise fairness when they see it, but those who oppose the cap cannot.