A year since its introduction a cap on benefits is pushing people into poverty and putting them at risk of homelessness, the Chartered Institute of Housing has said.
Figures out today show that at August 2017 more than 68,000 families were affected by the lower benefit cap, which came into effect on 7 November 2016. Nearly a third of those families are losing between £50 and £100 a week as a result.
In a series of interviews CIH conducted with households affected by the cap half said they had gone without food, fuel or were otherwise in debt as a result and a third said they had been forced to use food banks.
The cap reduced the total amount any family can receive in benefits from £26,000 to £23,000 in London and £20,000 outside of the capital, leaving families with significant shortfalls between the benefits they get and the cost of their housing.
Last year CIH warned the cap would hit families across the social rented and private rented sectors with hundreds of thousands of children affected, now it is calling on the government to use the budget to scrap the lower cap.
CIH chief executive, Terrie Alafat CBE, said “One year after the introduction of the lower benefit cap its worrying effects are very much apparent.
“As a result of this policy thousands of families face a daily struggle to live – in some cases being forced to go without food or heating so that they can pay for their housing, in many others being forced into arrears and put at risk of homelessness.
“It is particularly worrying that nearly a third of the families affected are losing between £50 and £100 a week – this is a huge amount of money if you are already struggling.
“The government says the aim of the cap is to get people into work, but many of the families who have been capped receive benefits which recognise they are not able to work and the concern is that many more families could be a redundancy or period of ill health away from being in this situation.
“The government has made a number of commitments in recent weeks to build new homes and take other crucial steps to solve our housing crisis, but this is an example of a welfare policy which seriously undermines that commitment because it makes housing virtually unaffordable to a significant number of people. The government should use the budget to scrap the lower benefit cap.”
CIH conducted 18 interviews with households affected by the benefit cap. Half of those households revealed they have gone without food, fuel or were otherwise in serious debt as a result of the cap.
A third said they had used a food bank and others reported worsening health problems as a result of the loss of income.
The government’s figures show that of the 68,000 households capped 71% are single parents, 77% of those households have a child under five and 35% have a child under two.
Half of the families affected are on income support and 15% are on Employment and Support Allowance.
Since the initial benefit cap was introduced in 2013 160,000 families have had their benefits capped.
The government’s latest benefit cap statistics are available here.