More than 260 Westcountry households which were claiming over £26,000-a-year in benefits have been hit by the controversial Government cap on state hand-outs since it was enforced earlier this year.
Families have been stripped of up to £100-a-week in state support by October as part of the Government initiative to ensure no household was earning above the average national wage in benefits.
Ministers argued the figures highlight its commitment to ending benefit dependency, however Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, Adrian Sanders, called it “one of the worst things the Government has done”.
According to the Department of Work and Pensions, 265 households in Devon and Cornwall have been brought down to the £26,000 figure.
Nationally, 28,500 households were affected with the vast majority in London.
As the biggest local authority in the Westcountry, 95 households in Cornwall were hit by the cap.
In Plymouth 60 households were affected, in Torbay 41, as well as another 65 across the rest of Devon.
Mr Sanders said a number of people have come to his constituency office in real financial difficulty as a result of the cap and, equally controversial, bedroom tax.
“For many of the people it’s a temporary period in between jobs,” he said. “With rent rates, many face going in to arrears unless they can move to smaller accommodation.
“But given how hard it is to find properties, it’s impossible, they are going in to rent arrears, or council tax arrears, or heating bill arrears, arrears in everything.”
He said he was surprised by the amount of households affected by the cap in his constituency.
But Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the Government has had to fix a broken welfare system.
He said: “These figures highlight our commitment to support those who want to work hard and get on and to end benefit dependency.
“The benefit cap means claimants no longer receive more in benefits than hard-working households’ average earnings and universal credit ensures being in work pays; making the welfare system fair for claimants and the taxpayer that funds it.”
The Department for Work and Pensions said 19,000 households potential affected by the benefit cap have moved in to work, with a further 35,800 claimants taking up offers of extra help.
Kim Goodall, a Jobcentre Plus operations manager in the South West, where 1,134 have been affected by the cap, said: “We've been working hard in the South West to help people prepare for the benefit cap. This started in April last year, and the results have been amazing.
“We've targeted help at getting people into work and supporting people who just didn't see work as a way to get on in life. It's great to see people's lives turned around.”