THREE-QUARTERS of households hit by the benefit cap in Wiltshire are single-parent families, figures reveal.

The Conservatives say the welfare reform is designed to ensure that work pays, but charities argue the "cruel and ineffectual" policy pushes vulnerable families into poverty.

The latest Department for Work and Pensions figures show 334 Wiltshire households had their benefits capped during August. Of these, 251 (75%) were single-parent households.

Single-parent charity Gingerbread says it is "deeply concerned" by the impact the policy is having, with parents of young children often struggling to move into work.

The cap limits the total amount of income a household can receive from certain benefits, and is implemented by reducing either their housing benefit or Universal Credit payments.

Currently, the cap kicks in at £20,000 per year for families outside of London, and £23,000 for those in the capital. Child tax credits and child benefit both count towards the income threshold.

David Samson, of charity Turn2us, said: “The benefits cap is a fundamentally flawed policy which breaks the link between need and entitlement. It works by taking away money that the welfare system has calculated a family needs. As a consequence, it is pushing many into poverty.

Employment minister Mims Davies said: “The benefit cap was introduced so it always pays to be in work. It is fair to the taxpayer while ensuring a large safety net for the most vulnerable. It is part of a package of policies that has seen the number of single parents in work reach a record high and the number of children living in a workless household reach a record low."