Letter: Benefits trap myth

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The Independent Online
Sir: Hannah Richardson ('Paid to stay in the poverty trap', 24 August) is too generous in her comments on the benefits 'trap'. There is no 'trap' as such. Of course, unscrupulous landlords take advantage of the system but it is just as wrong for someone to rent a house at pounds 200 a week knowing that he or she will never be able to afford the rent out of earned income.

There is probably nothing wrong with the system itself. The fault lies in its abuse and in the failure of the welfare agencies to apply it properly. Exorbitant rents should not be paid; the amount should be similar to that paid when the person concerned was working and, above all, people should not be moved to dearer accommodation while on welfare.

People on benefit are supposed to be actively seeking work and if a job similar in wage and conditions to that which was lost turns up, then that job is supposed to be taken. Level of benefit does not come into it and if a number of jobs are refused, benefit is supposed to be cancelled.

A partial solution would be the payment of a fair but restricted rent allowance instead of the automatic payment of whatever is asked. There is supposed to be a limit as to what social security deems 'reasonable'.

Yours faithfully,