Think back a few years to when housing benefit was capped. At first there was outrage as £400? £400! You can’t get a rabbit hutch for that! rang out across the land.
Then it was gently explained that this was £400 a week, not £400 a month. At which point the outrage rang out across the land. Who the fuck has been able to claim £1,600 a month for rent?!Burn ’em!?!
And so we come to the benefits cap:
Nearly a quarter of a million children from poor families will be hit by the extended household benefit cap due to be introduced this autumn, according to the government’s latest analysis of the impact of the policy.
The new cap will take an average of £60 a week out of the incomes of affected households, almost certainly pushing them deeper into poverty. About 61% of those affected will be female lone parents.
Anti-poverty campaigners said the cap would damage the life chances of hundreds of thousands of children, and force already poor families to drastically cut back on the amount they spend on food, fuel and clothing.
The new cap restricts the total amount an individual household can receive in benefits to £23,000 a year in London (£442 a week) and £20,000 in the rest of the UK (£385 a week). It replaces the existing cap level of £26,000.
Now obviously £20,000 a year isn’t great riches by British standards. It’s also in the top 2% of all global incomes. And there’re plenty of people out there who make less than £20k from a full time job.
So which way will this go? We’re obviously going to get, from The Guardian and points left, wails and articles about how awful this is. about people struggling on this sum. But what is going to be the general response? Yes, that’s a shameful amount? Or, come on, that’s a fair whack from the rest of us get on with it yourselves for more?
At some number the first would predominate. £5k for a family say. At £40 k for a family the second would. But what’s going to be interesting is where the dividing line is. My suspicion, and it is only a suspicion, is that £20k will still allow the “that’s a fair whack” brigade to predominate.
Largely because it is, it’s not far off median household income for the country.