The impact of the new, lower benefit cap on Birkenhead’s vulnerable human underbelly is powerfully described by Aditya Chakrabortty (Creating child poverty for a whole new generation. Take a bow, Theresa May, 1 November). The arrival of letters telling people how much worse off they will be under the cap has triggered panic among some of my most vulnerable constituents.
But there is a chance here for local authorities not only to abate this panic, but also to craft a game-changing opportunity for the poor.
People who move into part-time work gain automatic exemption from the cap. Local job creation programmes targeted specifically at households falling under the cap, in which local authorities offer paid six-month placements and help those households seek permanent work thereafter, would offer the chance of victory on two fronts: both to rescue large numbers of households from immediate hardship and improve their lifetime earnings prospects, while simultaneously reducing expenditure on discretionary housing payments and homelessness relief. Greenwich council’s Local Labour Programme has helped hundreds of households move into work and free from the cap.
As a very first move, local authorities should immediately appeal to every available welfare rights worker and staff from Jobcentre Plus to form a taskforce to call residents affected by the cap with the offer of advice, support and, hopefully, a job to mitigate and, if possible, avoid its worst effects.
Frank Field MP