Lavish Housing Benefit Payouts To Be Axed

(Telegraph) – LUXURY APARTMENTS AND LARGE HOMES in sought after areas will be ineligible for housing benefit claims under new rules designed to crack down on lavish pay outs.

The changes which will see top rents excluded from claims are part of a wider shake-up of the benefits system aimed at making work pay, and follow a series of high profile instances where claimants had their rent paid while living in houses worth millions of pounds.

Ministers are said to fear that the current system is seen as unfair, because people on benefits in some areas, particularly in the Capital, have been able to have rent paid on homes which most “hardworking families” would not be able to afford.

At the weekend, it emerged that a single mother of eight was living in a £2.6 million mansion in Notting Hill, north London, at a cost to the taxpayer of £90,000 a year in rent.

The Government is set to consult on the best way to limit claims for top rents, with proposals including barring the top five to 10 per cent of rents, or banning claims from the most exclusive areas, such as Canary Wharf in London.

As well as the housing benefits reforms, the Department for Work and Pensions is also unveiling a jobs white paper, including plans to ensure that people on benefits will always be better off if they get a job.

Yvette Cooper, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Housing benefit needs to help people into work and it also needs to be fair.

“We want to make sure that families have a decent place to live and that they are encouraged to move off benefits and into jobs.

“That means going further with benefit reform to give people more support and certainty in work.

“But it also means tackling the problems caused by a small proportion of very high rents to make the system fairer too”

As part of the proposed reforms, housing benefit will continue to be paid at the same level for the first three months after a claimant gets a job to allow them to “settle in” to work.

The plans also include a proposal that the partners of those claiming benefits be forced to seek work if they are fit.

But Theresa May, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “It is totally unfair that families on benefits can afford better housing then those in work.

“Labour’s had 12 years to get to grips with welfare reform.

“Now in the dying days of Gordon Brown’s government they are rushing out a series of policy announcements aimed at grabbing votes as the election looms”.

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