The Welfare Benefits Uprating Bill is going to put a cap on benefits so they rise at a rate lower than inflation for the next three years, and charities are appalled it has been passed.
Conservatives defend this cap and say it is fair because the average wage is not rising in line with inflation, and figures from 2007 to now show that benefits have risen above wages; Iain Duncan Smith said that the increases have cost £6.3bn since the start of the recession.
However, Labour have strongly opposed it and charities working with families who don't have as much money are dismayed at the outcome of the vote.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children's Society, said:
This Bill will punish millions of children and families already struggling to make ends meet.
Two-thirds of families affected – over six million – have children. As a result of [yesterday's] move, life will be harder for families from all walks of life, including 300,000 nurses and midwives, 150,000 primary school teachers and 40,000 members of the armed forces.
Families already struggling to provide their children with food or a winter coat, or heat their homes are being pushed closer to the brink.
Child poverty blights lives and is a scar on our society. Today's 'hardship penalty' punishes working families on low incomes as well as those looking for work, paving the way to a rise in child poverty.
Labour have shown contradictory figures to the Conservatives, which show Job Seekers Allowance has risen less than wages in the past decade.
As well as the four Lib Dem votes against the cap, former leader Charles Kennedy abstained from voting, saying that he wants to see changed to the legislation before it becomes law.
Mr Kennedy later said he wanted to see changes to the legislation, which caps benefit rises at a below-inflation 1% for the next three years, before it becomes law.
The Conservatives main defence for the cap is because of the assumption that people on benefits are out of work. Chancellor George Osborne has defended the move by saying:
Where is the fairness for the shift-worker, leaving home in the dark hours of the early morning, who looks up at the closed blinds of their next-door neighbour sleeping off a life on benefits?
A recent survey shows that the majority of people supporting the benefit cap are those who are least aware of the facts, and it is following comments such as this which imply those who are on benefits are unemployed, as it encourages an inaccurate negative stereotype.
However, Labour have protested that figures show almost 70% of those who will lose out from the changes are in employment.
Ed Miliband said:
It's now clear what the Government's strategy is: it's a divide and rule strategy.
They haven't succeeded in the first two-and-a-half years so they want to point the finger of blame at someone else so it doesn't get pointed at them.
They are cutting taxes for millionaires while hitting low-paid people, those people whose curtains are open when George Osborne gets up and still open when he goes to bed.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said working families are paying the price for economic failure:
It’s not Britain’s millionaires who are picking up the tab, it is Britain’s working families. This Bill is a strivers’ tax, pure and simple.