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666 North-East households hit by benefit cap
THE ‘benefits cap’ has hit hundreds of North-East families, official figures show – but nobody in swathes of North Yorkshire.
A total of 666 households across the region have had their housing benefit cut since the controversial cap came into force in the summer.
But not a single family has been affected in the districts of Hambleton, Richmondshire, Ryedale and Craven and very few in Harrogate (11) and York (17).
In stark contrast, large numbers have had their benefits capped in County Durham (117), Middlesbrough (75), Hartlepool (60), Stockton-on-Tees (60) and Sunderland (68).
Meanwhile, the department for work and pensions (DWP) is unable to say how many of those 666 households now have somebody in a job.
Across the country, 19,000 people “potentially affected by the cap” are now in work, but no figures are available for each local authority area.
Nevertheless, Jason Livingston, a Jobcentre Plus district manager in the North-East, said: “The results have been amazing.
“We've been working hard in Yorkshire to help people prepare for the benefit cap. This started in April last year.
“We've targeted help at getting people into work and supporting people who just didn't see work as a way to get on in life. It's great to see people's lives turned around.”
And Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary said: “These figures highlight our commitment to support those who want to work hard and get on and to end benefit dependency."
The welfare cap prevents workless families from claiming more than £26,000 a year in benefits - a level set because it is the average working family income.
Trials began in four London boroughs in the spring, before the cap was extended to the North and nationwide by the end of September.
Critics of the benefits crackdown have warned of an explosion in the number of people turning up to food banks for emergency aid.
But the DWP insists people have always been referred to food banks if appropriate, rejecting claims that there has been a big increase.
The Conservatives have pointed to polling showing the cap is the single most popular change the Government has made to the welfare system.
Indeed, George Osborne is also considering a further lowering of the benefits’ limit, with some Tory MPs pressing for a reduction of £6,000 – to £20,000.
Labour has argued for the benefits cap to be set regionally, to reflect housing benefit – the bulk of most claims – being so much higher in the South.
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