Benefits cap proposal

Benefits cap proposal

36% Britons say household benefit cap should be under £20k; 19% say national average of £26k

Over two thirds of the British public thinks that benefits for a family should be capped at under £20,000 a year after tax, regardless of the number of dependents, our poll shows.

Nearly one in five would cap the benefits available at £26,000 – the average earnings of a British family after tax – while only around one in ten says that there shouldn't be a maximum amount that a family can receive.

Opinion is fairly even across the political spectrum for capping the amount at the average wage (£26,000), but a relatively high number of Liberal Democrats say that there should be no cap at all, compared to a relatively high number of Conservatives who feel the cap should be under £20,000.  

  • 36% of the British public say that the amount of benefits a family can receive should be capped at under £20,000
  • 19% say that £26,000 is an acceptable cap
  • 9% say that there should be no limit
  • 41% of Conservative supporters say the cap should be less than £20,000 a year (compared to 33% of Labour supporters, and 31% of Liberal Democrat supporters)
  • While 12% of Lib Dem supporters and Labour supporters apiece say that there should be no cap, compared to just 3% of Conservative supporters who feel the same
  • When it comes to capping benefits at the average British wage of £26,000, however, there is broad agreement across the party lines, with 22% of Conservatives, 23% of Liberal Democrats, and just slightly fewer Labour supporters, at 16% 

Average earnings

The results come in light of a recent Government proposal that the total amount of benefits a family should be able to receive should be no more than £26,000 a year after tax – the average earnings of a family in Britain.

The Welfare Reform bill, which will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday, includes Work and Pensions  Secretary Iain Duncan Smith's suggestion that the household benefit cap should be set at £26,000.

Fair benefits?

The proposal has attracted criticism and been labelled 'draconian' by some Lib Dem peers, who say that capping benefits regardless of the number of dependents within the household will disadvantage thousands of families. Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes has also highlighted that capping by household may split families up as they seek to maximise allowances, for example if parents live separately, or force them to move away. 'How will that support families?', he asked.   

However, Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken out on the issue, asking MPs if 'we happy to go on paying £30,000, £40,000, £50,000? Are constituents working hard to give benefits so [claimants] can live in homes that they can only dream of? I don't think that is fair,' he said.

See the survey details and full results here

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Hannah Thompson

Website Editor

YouGov UK Public Opinion site

Worked in the YouGov London office until September 2012