Benefit cap ‘pushing thousands into poverty’ on anniversary of its introduction

Terrie Alafat
Terrie Alafat

Ahead of the anniversary of the introduction of the benefit cap, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has warned it is pushing people into poverty and putting them at risk of homelessness.

New figures show that, by August 2017, more than 68,000 families had been 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.”

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