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Benefit Cap (Employment Outcomes)

Volume 570: debated on Monday 18 November 2013

Recent poll findings show that of those notified or aware that they would be affected by the cap, three in 10 took action to find work. To date, almost 36,000 have accepted help to move into work from Jobcentre Plus and around 18,000 potentially capped claimants have moved into work.

Jobcentre Plus in Dorset worked extremely hard to identify those affected and to get them into employment. What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the impact of that on the recent encouraging employment figures?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I give credit to Jobcentre Plus for the action that it took, which sometimes goes unnoticed, when it knew that this policy was coming in. From April 2012, it wrote to potentially affected people with advance warning. It set up a helpline on the benefit cap and an online calculator so that they could work out some of the figures themselves. It then telephoned some of the most vulnerable, and visited them as well. It set up funding for intensive employment support and worked with local authorities to support claimants in budgeting, housing and child care, and big employment events. This is one of major reasons why about 61% of those who moved into work did so after they were notified.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this, and I assure him that in an area such as mine, which includes the ward with the highest level of child poverty in the south-east region, my constituents welcome the fact that we really are trying to encourage people who have been far too long on benefits to look for options to work. The news that he has just announced is what is needed.

I agree with my hon. Friend. The reality is that of more than 19,000 householders capped in mid-September 2013, 60% were lone parents and 78% were capped by £100 or less a week. This is a system that is returning fairness to the whole programme. The Opposition opposed the cap, and it is worth remembering that even though the trade union leaders opposed it, 80% of Unite members support our policy on welfare reform, as I discovered from a poll the other day.