London, July 31: Courtesy an unplugged loophole in the British government’s welfare shake-up, immigrants having multiple wives can claim higher benefit payments, it has emerged.
Benefits potentially available to spouses in polygamous marriages include income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, pension credit, housing benefit and council tax benefit.
According to prevailing rules, husbands in polygamous marriages are able to apply for income support and other handouts for their extra spouses, Daily Express reported.
British ministers have decided to scrap the rules when the new Universal Benefit system comes in next year to end such a situation’s prevalence where the state effectively recognises polygamy.
Officials are now concerned that multiple wives will claim full single person’s benefits instead, rather than lower-rate payments designed for “couples”. Some immigrants could see their weekly handouts almost turning double from 40 to 71 pounds a week.
The loophole has triggered fresh concerns about why families in some minority religious groups are permitted to indulge in polygamy while bigamy is illegal and punishable by up to seven years in jail.
In Britain, polygamous families on jobseeker’s allowance could claim about 111 pounds a week for the initial couple and 40 pounds for each additional wife. Once they are treated as individuals, the wives could claim 71 pounds a week.
According to The Sun, treating other wives as single claimants will push up the total household income, though it is not yet clear how much each family will get under Universal Credit which is introduced next year.
The details emerged in a House of Commons library paper. The ruling Coalition wants to stop recognising polygamy in the welfare system.
The practice is illegal in Britain unless the marriages took place in countries where it is permitted