DWP minister suggests families affected by benefit cap could ‘move house’ or ‘take in a lodger’

Labour MP tells Justin Tomlinson to 'look at reality' as many affected households are large families that may have 'three children in one bedroom'

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 21 November 2018 12:49
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DWP minister Justin Tomlinson suggests families affected by benefit cap could ‘move house’ or ‘take in a lodger’

A government minister has been criticised after he suggested poor families could “move house” or “take in a lodger” to ease financial pressures caused by the benefit cap.

Work and pensions minister Justin Tomlinson said that parents affected by the benefit cap, which limits the total amount of benefits a household can receive, could also “renegotiate their housing costs” if they were struggling due to the policy.

Labour MP Ruth George responded by telling the minister to “look at reality” that many affected households were large families that may have “three children in one bedroom”.

The benefit cap was lowered in 2016 and limits the total amount of benefits a household can receive to a maximum of £20,000 a year, or £23,000 for families in London.

During an evidence hearing with the Work and Pensions Committee, Mr Tomlinson was asked about what was being done to prevent the “suffering” of poor families subjected to the benefit cap who are not able to get into work.

He responded: “Some will have made other changes, including in their housing costs – whether that is either moving or renegotiating what their housing costs are, or they could have for example taken a lodger...”

Interrupting him, Ms George said: “Take in a lodger? These are large families, they’ve often got three children in one bedroom. How are they going to take in a lodger? Just look at reality here.”

His comments were also derided on Twitter, with one user saying: “We cannot just up sticks and find another property. I can’t take in a lodger ... He’s out of touch. I hope he was challenged.”

Another said: “Most of these families will be renting, and they will be forbidden from taking in a lodger. And they previously said people must move to cheaper properties: by their own words in this hearing this is an effect of the benefit cap.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) claims the benefit cap incentivises work, including part-time work, as claimants become exempt from the cap once they are in a job and are earning over a certain amount.

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