'Another year of misery for the poor'
HUNDREDS of toddlers could be going hungry on Merseyside because the government is refusing to obey the law, a local MP has claimed.
Around 400 families are reported to be missing out on around £50 a week because the Conservatives are refusing to pay their full benefits, according to Birkenhead MP Frank Field. A High Court judge said in June that the government's controversial cap on benefits was unlawful for single parents of children under two. But the government has resisted pressure to lift the cap and pay families the benefits they are entitled to, saying they appealed in October and are waiting for the court's decision.
Frank Field said it was a form of "state-sponsored destitution" to deprive families of the cash in the meantime, with no clear time frame for the outcome of the appeal.
The Labour politician said it could even leave some families at risk of homelessness.
He said: "The government is inflicting yet another year of misery upon some of Merseyside's poorest families.
"In the eyes of the law those families should never even have been penalised by the Benefit Cap in the first place. So this additional year in which families must somehow find an additional £50 a week really is rubbing salt into the wound.
"It amounts to a programme of state-sponsored destitution. Justice demands that the Government should pay the money to which the courts have ruled families are entitled, at least until the appeal is heard."
He said local councils had told him 136 single parents currently had their benefits capped in Liverpool, 78 each in Knowsley and Wirral, 48 in St Helens, 35 in Sefton and 23 in Halton.
The Liverpool family with the highest losses under the benefit cap had been stripped of almost £150 a week, he added.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: "Work is the best way to raise living standards, and many parents Birkenhead MP Frank Field with young children are employed.
"The benefit cap incentivises work, even if it's part-time, as anyone eligible for working tax credits or the equivalent under Universal Credit, is exempt.
"Even with the cap, lone parents can still receive benefits up to the equivalent salary of £25,000, and we have made Discretionary Housing Payments available to people who need extra help."
The benefit cap was introduced by the coalition government to stop unemployed families receiving more than the average salary in benefits. Single parents and couples with or without children saw their jobseekers' allowance, universal credit, housing benefit, child benefit or other payments capped at around £385 a week.