Ipswich households have benefits cut by more than £400 a month due to welfare cap
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Struggling families in Ipswich have been “hit hard” by changes in the welfare system and there are tougher times ahead, a council leader has said.
Some households in the town have had their benefits cut by more than £400 a month since the Government lowered the limit on how much can be claimed.
In November 2016 the threshold was dropped from £26,000 to £20,000 per year for those living outside of London. During the following two months claimants in Ipswich collectively lost almost £70,000 in welfare pay-outs, according to figures released by Ipswich Borough Council (IBC).
David Ellesmere, Labour leader of IBC, said: “Low income families are being hit very hard by the Government.
“At the same time the Government is giving tax cuts to some of the wealthiest people in the country - that can’t be fair.
“There are going to be more and more Ipswich families who struggle to meet their bills at the end of the month.”
Wendy Brame, money advisor at Ipswich Housing Action Group (IHAG), said the new cap had mostly impacted families in the town with three or more children, some of whom are now in rent arrears of £700 to £800.
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Maureen Reynolds, director of foodbank charity Families in Need Ipswich (FIND), said: “It’s not the case now of either heating or eating, people can’t do either.
“Unless you are on a terrific income, or have a huge amount in the pot, it’s having a knock-on effect on everyone.
“It’s not just people on benefits, it’s working people who can’t manage on the wages they are getting.”
Already this year FIND has given out 930 food parcels.
Those exempt from the cap, which was first introduced in 2013, include employees working more than 16 hours a week, and anyone eligible for a carer’s allowance and most disability benefits.
Ben Gummer, Conservative MP for Ipswich, said the purpose of the cap was the make sure people couldn’t claim more on benefits than the average family was taking home through paid work.
He added: “This is, I know, something that people across Ipswich feel very strongly about and that’s why it’s a policy that has got widespread support.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the limit provided a “clear incentive” for unemployed people who were able to work to find a job.
She added: “The benefit cap restores fairness to the system and the new limit will ensure the amount people on out-work-benefits can claim better reflects the circumstances of many working families in the country.”
This week further changes to the benefit system come into force, including cuts to payments for bereaved families, while support provided through child tax credit will be limited to two children.