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Study: 'Poorest made poorer' by welfare reforms

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The study claims worst-hit families are losing out by £864 per year. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Almost 1.75 million of the poorest families in the UK have been made poorer by a "perfect storm" of changes to the welfare system over the last three years, a new Oxfam report claims.

The families have been hit by one or more changes including fewer council tax exemptions and the under-occupation policy or "bedroom tax", according to Multiple Cuts For The Poorest Families.

The report, produced along with the New Policy Institute (NPI), says the worst-hit 200,000 families affected are losing out by £18 per week or £864 per year.

Mark Goldring, Oxfam's chief executive, said: "This is the latest evidence of a perfect storm blowing massive holes in the safety net which is supposed to stop people falling further into poverty.

"We are already seeing people turning to food banks and struggling with rent, council tax, childcare and travel costs to job centres."

Read: 'Bedroom tax' fails to save taxpayer £115m, charity claims

EU migrants will have to wait 3 months for child benefit

The Government has announced that European Union migrants will have to wait at least three months before they can claim child welfare payments.

EU migrants will have to wait three months before they can claim child benefit. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Archive

From July 1, migrants will need to prove they have been in Britain for three months in order to claim child benefit and child tax credit.

Ministers claim the move is to stop the welfare system being open to abuse.

There is already in place a three month wait for migrants before they can claim jobseeker's allowance.

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Welfare reforms gave people 'incentive' to take jobs

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will credit Chancellor George Osborne for helping to create 1.7 million jobs since the election but will add that welfare reforms have also played a part in the current level of employment.

Whilst others have questioned and puzzled over the record employment Britain is now seeing, as the Work and Pensions Secretary I have long believed that the strength of our labour market would both drive Britain's great economic recovery, and increase as a result.

First, this Government created the conditions for growth, and gave businesses the freedom and confidence to create jobs.

Second, we drove a programme of welfare reform where every change was designed to get Britain back to work - giving people previously left to languish out of work the skills and the incentive to take those jobs.

– Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith

Read: Duncan Smith says welfare reforms helped 'get UK back to work'

Govt's welfare reforms helped 'get UK back to work'

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will claim that the Government's package of welfare reforms have helped "get Britain back to work".

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Mr Duncan Smith will say in a speech in London that the strength of the labour market is evidence that benefit reforms are also having an impact by boosting economic activity.

He will also accuse the former Labour government of trapping people in welfare dependency and robbing them of the drive to go to work, while claiming his reforms have given jobless people the incentive to seek and take employment.

Mr Duncan Smith will say that changes to benefits have played a crucial part in "creating a stable economy matched by a strong society where people are ready and capable of work".

A raft of welfare reforms have been implemented in the last year, including the so-called "bedroom tax", the introduction of Personal Independence Payments for disabled people and the imposition of the £500-a-week benefit cap.

Government insists 'reforms improve lives of poorest'

A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman responded to criticism from the Children's Commissioner on how poorest families are paying the price for the government's welfare reforms.

Read: Children 'pay price' for austerity

The spokeswoman insisted the reforms would improve the lives of some of the poorest families by "promoting work and helping people lift themselves out of poverty."

Our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.

Universal Credit will make three million households better off and lift up to 300,000 children out of poverty.

There are a lot of misleading stories about our reforms, but the truth is that we spend £94 billion a year on working age benefits and the welfare system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.

Children 'pay price' for austerity

A generation of youngsters are "paying the price" for the Government's austerity measures, the Children's Commissioner for England has warned.

Maggie Atkinson said the poorest families were being hit by welfare cuts, but children were also affected by library closures and reductions in spending on leisure facilities.

Government spending cuts are affecting children's lives, said Maggie Atkinson. Credit: Lynne Cameron/PA Wire

In an interview with Total Politics magazine the commissioner said local government cuts had also hit after-school and holiday clubs for children.

She said: "There are children now who are paying the price in England, not only for the reduction in welfare spending, but in libraries, in leisure facilities, in early intervention, in after-school clubs or holiday clubs.

"All of those things have been under such severe pressure in local government that many of them have stopped doing them."

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520 MPs vote for welfare spending cap

MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the government's plans to cap welfare spending at £119.5 billion.

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520 MPs backed government's welfare cap of £119.5bn. 22 MPs did not

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The Labour "rebellion" on welfare cap was less than two dozen. We will get the names shortly but this isn't big upset for Miliband: 520 v 22

Read: How the government's welfare cap will work

Welfare cap 'targets poor, sick and disabled'

The head of Citizens Advice, a major charity advising people on benefits, has warned the Government's Welfare Cap may push vulnerable people further into poverty.

Capping only the few benefits selected by ministers means it will be the poor, sick and disabled who face having their support cut.

The priority should be tackling the drivers of high welfare spending, like the dire lack of affordable homes, which increases house and rent prices and ramps up the cost of Housing Benefit. A guide on a limit to the cost of welfare is sensible, but leaving out large areas of spending is a mistake.

A cap which deliberately targets support for the working poor and has little room for manoeuvre could put even greater pressure on low income families

– Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice

Read: MPs to vote on £120bn annual welfare spending cap

Abbott: Welfare cap 'will encourage arbitrary cuts'

Former leadership contender Diane Abbott is set to be among the MPs planning to defy the Labour whips when the vote is called this afternoon.

Ms Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) said she would not support the cap because it was the wrong thing to do.

She said:

Everyone wants the welfare bill to come down because spending on welfare is the price of failure.

However, we think this cap will just encourage arbitrary cuts rather than long term policies because that will bring down welfare spending.

We know, because of research by the Chartered Institute of Housing, when they did four pilots of the cap, in Haringey only 10% of households were known to have found jobs and 50% had to get more money from the council.

It's also part of the narrative to demonise benefit claimants. I don't think we should allow George Osborne to play politics with this issue, because it is people's lives.

Asked if Labour backing the plan would open the Opposition to the same charge, Ms Abbott said: "I think there is a danger it would be seen as playing politics."

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