Letter: Caught in the benefits trap

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The Independent Online
Sir: Hannah Richardson ('Paid to stay in the poverty trap', 22 August provides a valuable insight into the financial dilemmas facing benefits claimants, but is incorrect on two points.

She says that 'the only people profiting from the benefits trap . . . would appear to be London landlords, whose sky-high rents are being guaranteed out of our pockets'.

In my experience (outside London) this is not the case. The local authorities are empowered to restrict the housing benefit paid to people whose rent is 'unreasonably high'. Indeed, they face severe financial penalties for paying benefit in excess of the 'market rent' assessed by the rent officer service. These restrictions mean that many private tenants are forced to make up their housing benefit, to the full level of their rent, out of Income Support payments which are already inadequate.

Ms Richardson goes on to describe the benefits system as having an 'all or nothing approach'. In fact, the poverty trap is more insidious than this, withdrawing support from families and individuals as their earnings increase.

Until this high level of 'marginal taxation' is addressed, Ms Richardson's basic point that 'the benefits system is forcing good workers to turn down good jobs' will remain true.

Yours faithfully,

MIKE BOLTON

Outreach Welfare Rights Officer

Nottingham Hostels

Liaison Group

Nottingham

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