By Claire West
New analysis published this week of the Government's proposed 10 per cent housing benefit cut for adults who have been claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) for more than 12 months, reveals that at least 194,000 unemployed adults will lose nearly £500 a year if the cut is introduced.
The research - which will inform the TUC's submission to the Work and Pensions Select Committee's consultation on housing benefit reforms - finds that the cut will have a big impact on some of the UK's most vulnerable people.
Evidence suggests that disabled workers, lone parents and people who have recent experience of homelessness are among the groups of people most likely to find themselves long-term unemployed, and therefore affected by this policy.
The TUC analysis reveals that at least 194,000 adults a year will see their housing benefit cut by 10 per cent if this cut is introduced. Those who will be hit include 102,000 adults who have been claiming JSA for 12 months or more, 68,000 lone parents (who will be moved on to JSA from other benefits) and at least 24,000 disabled people (who will be moved on to JSA from incapacity benefit). On average they will lose £489.06 a year.
The cut is unfair as it punishes people who can't get a job by increasing their risks of debt and homelessness, says the TUC. It will have no discernible impact on fraud or work incentives but will cause significant hardship for tens of thousands of families across the UK.
With close to 2.5 million people in the UK facing unemployment, but less than 500,000 vacancies across the economy, it is clear that the main reason for unemployment is a lack of jobs - not a lack of will from long-term unemployed people, says the TUC.
As this change to housing benefit is just one of a number of benefit cuts being made by the Government, families could find themselves much worse off, the TUC warns.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'This cut in housing benefit will make a real difference to some of the poorest and most vulnerable adults and families, who will find themselves out of pocket to the tune of nearly £500 a year.
'Long-term unemployment is not a lifestyle choice, it is a debilitating and stressful experience which puts unemployed people and their families at higher risk of poverty, poor health and relationship breakdown.
'The long-term unemployed need help and support to get them back into the labour market. They should not to be blamed for their predicament by having vital benefits cut. This is another example of the Government making struggling families bear the cost of the recession, while the rich have been let off.'