Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Call for benefits cap re-think

Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne

The Government should re-think its plans to set one national benefits cap, shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne has said.

He said it would make "much more sense to have a different cap in different parts of the country".

Speaking ahead of Labour leader Ed Miliband's party conference speech in Manchester, the shadow minister called for an independent panel of experts to examine the issue to ensure "no matter where you live, you are better off in work".

Mr Byrne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there should be a cap on benefits, but added: "They've, in a clumsy and pretty politicised way, tried to set one national cap for the country whereas everybody knows that one cap for the whole of Britain would be pumped up a bit by the very, very high levels of rent and housing benefit that you see in London.

"We've said 'Look come on, think about this carefully, it would make much more sense to have a different cap in different parts of the country and let's try and take the politics out of that a bit'.

"Let's get an independent panel of wise experts who can look at this and say what is the right level in different parts of the country, so that no matter where you live, you are better off in work."

Mr Byrne also called for "fast and fundamental reform" of the test to see if individuals are eligible for Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

He said: "The principle of the test is absolutely right, but the truth is that what is happening right now, it's just ranging of bureaucracy against disabled people, it's not putting a team behind them to help them get back into work."

Mr Byrne said more needed to be done to help young people into work, with new investment in childcare and better organisation in getting disabled people back into employment. He said: "I work on the assumption that we are going to inherit a dog's breakfast in 2015."

He added: "Savings are going to have to be made. I think there will be savings that are needed on welfare spending too. Our challenge is how we spend that money differently to support more people in work."

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