Five questions answered on the benefits cap roll out

How much is the government actually going to save?

A cap on the amount of benefits people aged between 16 and 64 can claim is being rolled out in England, Scotland and Wales today. We answer five questions on the changes the benefit cap will bring.

What’s the biggest change the cap brings to benefits?

Chiefly that couple and lone parents will no not be able to receive more than £500 a week or £350 a week for a single person.

The cap does not affect Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, as well other benefits including industrial injuries benefit or a war widow or widower's pension.

How will the cap be enforced exactly? 

The cap will affect payments including jobseekers allowance and child and housing benefit, which all count towards the cap.

Those affected by the changes will have their housing benefit reduced.

It has already been implemented in four London boroughs - Haringey, Enfield, Croydon and Bromley - since April, which were all given £1.8m by the government in the first year, to help with the transition.

However, Haringey estimates that it will have to add £2m of its own money to pay for the changes this year alone.

What have critics of the cap said?

They say it fails to tackle underlying issues, such as problems faced by those trying to find work. The National Housing Federation (NHF), which agrees that those on benefits should not earn more than those in work, says the cap does not work in London and the South East, where the cost of rent is high.

What has Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said about this change?

"The benefit cap returns fairness to the benefits systems," Mr Duncan Smith told the BBC.

"It ensures the taxpayer can have trust in the welfare system and it stops sky-high claims that make it impossible for people to move into work.

"The limit of £500 a week ensures no-one claims more in benefits than the average household and there is a clear reason for people to get a job - as those eligible for Working Tax Credit are exempt."

How much does the government expect to save from the benefits cap?

It hopes the cap will save the tax payer about £110m in the first year, and £300m over the next two years.

About £95bn a year is currently paid in benefits to families of working age.

A cap on the amount of benefits people aged between 16 and 64 can claim is being rolled out. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for Nridigital.com

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.