The benefit cap will be cut to £23,000 and those aged 18-21 will be given a maximum of six months Job Seeker’s Allowance if the Conservatives win an outright majority in the next election, George Osborne has said.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday the Chancellor pledged the Tories would slash the maximum state benefit to £60 a week and cease unemployment payments to young people after six months unless they signed up to take part in community projects and volunteer work.
He added that 18 to 21-year-olds would also be unable to claim housing benefit, the knock-on effect of which could see more young people forced to live with their parents.
Osborne said the savings created by the measures will be passed on to young people in the form of three million new apprenticeships.
The radical overhaul has been blocked by the Conservatives’ Lib-Dem coalition partners but Osborne said the party would move ahead with the plans in May if they were able to form a majority government.
“Our mission is not just to save the pounds here and there, we’re trying to change the welfare system so it doesn’t trap people in poverty and a culture of dependency. It is a tragedy for them and a waste for the country," he said.
Labour has railed against the plans calling them a “fresh attack on the poor”. The Mail quoted a Labour source as saying “the Tories are wrong to think they can win easy votes by attacking people on welfare. The 'Bedroom Tax' is massively unpopular and now they are attacking young people.”
However, polls indicate the measures would be popular and single parents, young people coming out of care and other vulnerable groups would be exempt.
The Chancellor argued that the cuts would encourage more young people to find work. “We are saying you will receive an allowance but if you can’t find work after six months, you will have to work for the dole. They are difficult decisions but the right ones.”
Similarly the cuts to the benefit cap, which currently stands a £26,000, will encourage benefit claimants to look for work he argued.
“Before our reforms, some families were receiving £100,000 a year in housing benefit. How many working people can afford rent of £100,000? It was a gross injustice. Since we imposed a cap, large numbers have looked for work,” he said.