Pregnant women are considering abortions because of the impact of the Government’s new benefit cap, MPs revealed today.
Last November, the Tories slashed the amount of benefit and tax credits out-of-work families can receive from £26,000 to £20,000-a-year - £23,000 in London.
This morning, the Work and Pensions Committee published evidence of the impact of the cut, including the revelation that some women are considering terminating their pregnancies because of fears over how to make ends meet.
Other trends include an increased workload for local councils as more families are impacted by the policy – with Newcastle City Council seeing the number of households affected shoot up by 400% in just 12 months.
Labour MP Frank Field, chairman of the Committee, said: “Once again we see a benefit change purported to push people into work, while the evidence points to the contrary effect.
“Changes that actually did save money and help the strivers get into proper, gainful employment would be very welcome, but that is not what we are seeing with new policies like Universal Credit or the lower benefit cap.”
Another committee member, Labour MP Karen Buck said: “As the benefit cap starts to bite across Britain it looks from the evidence we’ve seen so far like a drastic cut to income for people who are really unable to cut their living costs any further.
“The evidence does not show us that being plunged further into poverty encourages or helps people to find work, and the vast majority of those hit by this cut are already recognised as unable to work at the moment.
“It is very hard to see any benefit from the benefit cap.”
The first official statistics on how many households are affected by the reduced cap will be published on Thursday, but the Government estimates as many as 88,000 families could see their incomes reduced.
But the anecdotal evidence collected by the Committee paints a worrying picture of how people are being affected.
National poverty charity Turn2us told MPs the “most worrying trend” was around calls from expectant mothers.
“The most worrying trend that is emerging is pregnant women asking the call handler to undertake a benefit check to ascertain what they would be entitled to if they continue with the pregnancy, citing that the outcome will help them to decide whether they continue with the pregnancy or terminate it.
“Turn2us is concerned that this type of call will become more frequent as a result of the two child limit that came into effect on 6th April 2017.”
In evidence from Salford City Council, MPs were told that thanks to the benefit cap – and the two-child limit on child benefit which came into force last month – “the safety net has been effectively scrapped for families with more than 2 children.”
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: “The sudden and drastic nature of the way the cuts were introduced is dangerous. It is a cruel attack on vulnerable people and children already growing up in poverty will be faced with even more challenges as a result.”
The evidence went on: “The benefit cap is effectively a ‘sanction’ which results in the very sudden loss of income and typically, means a choice between paying rent or food and utilities.”
Former Chancellor George Osborne cut the benefit cap to £20,000 in his 2015 Budget - the first Tory only Budget for 19 years.
He justified the reduction by saying “it is not fair that people out of work can earn more than people in work.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, the average earnings are £26,468 a year.