Woodford Green MP Iain Duncan Smith claims he could live on £53 a week as welfare reforms sweep in

Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith - Credit: Archant

Chingford and Woodford Green MP Iain Duncan Smith riled voters by claiming he could live on £53 a week in benefits in an interview yesterday marking the start of huge welfare reforms.

The work and pensions secretary was asked whether he could survive on the amount by market trader David Bennett in a debate on BBC Radio 4.

The amount is roughly the lowest rate of Jobseekers’ Allowance for under 25s.

An online petition calling on Mr Duncan Smith to “prove” his claim has since been signed by more than 128,000 people.

The Recorder could not reach his office this morning for a comment but the Department of Work and Pensions said its “key message” had not changed.

A spokesman said: “Benefits really are a safety net for people to help them through tough times and we know sometimes people do go through tough times on benefits.

“We are in a situation where we have a benefit system that’s very complicated and it’s difficult for people to navigate.

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“The vast majority want to do the right thing and move off benefits into work and reduce the amount they receive as they move up.

“We are making it a lot clearer for people that if they step off benefits onto work it will pay.”

Yesterday the controversial “bedroom tax” was introduced, which will reduce housing benefit for working-age social housing tenants deemed to have spare bedrooms.

Council tax benefit also passed to local authority control and legal aid eligibility was changed.

Later this month, the 50p top tax rate for high earners will be reduced and disability living allowance will be replaced by the new “personal independence payment”.

Benefit payments will now rise at one per cent a year rather than with inflation as before and the welfare benefit cap will kick in for the first local authorities.

The intention is that no claimants will receive more than the average household income after tax, around £26,000.

On April 28, the north-west will be the first area to receive the new universal credit, which combines six of the main out-of-work benefits.

It will gradually be rolled out across the country.

Will you be affected by the changes? Call 0208 477 3821 or email lizzie.dearden@archant.co.uk.