Blog: Early warnings about the lower benefit cap
Kirsty McKechnie from the Child Poverty Action Group highlights worrying examples of how the benefit cap reduction is hitting people in Scotland
The reduction of the benefit cap from £23,000 to £20,000 per household is currently being rolled out across Scotland.
If someone is entitled to benefits and tax credits in excess of the cap, they will have their housing benefit reduced.
As the person who gathers case evidence for CPAG in Scotland’s Early Warning System (which looks at how welfare reforms impact on families) I can tell you about some of the people who are already being affected by the lower cap.
The DWP announcement regarding the lower cap, stated the intention behind the reduction was to make work pay more than ‘welfare’, at the same time as supporting those who cannot work.
However, in practice, it appears that not everyone who cannot work is exempt from the cap; and that the support pledged for those who are affected by the cap may not be available.
The case studies we have received include:
Announcing the lower cap, the DWP assured: “to support those affected by the benefit cap, over £1 billion of discretionary housing payments will have been provided to local authorities by the end of this parliament.”
However when one client applied for a discretionary housing payment after their housing benefit was reduced by £33 a week, the response stated:
“due to funding constraints within our discretionary housing payment budget and the increased number of cases, we are not in a position to award discretionary housing payments for cases affected by the benefit cap.”
With the Scottish Government anticipating that 4,000 families will be affected by the new benefit cap level in the first year, that is a lot of families facing difficulty paying their rent, who may not be able to work, or access discretionary housing payments.
CPAG in Scotland’s second tier advice line for frontline advisers and support staff in Scotland can answer any queries you may have about the benefit cap, or any other benefit issues. It can be contacted on 0141 552 0552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.