England: Benefit changes make areas off-limits to big families

Gavin Smart, CIH deputy chief executive
Gavin Smart, CIH deputy chief executive

Some parts of England will become “off-limits for larger families” when the overall benefit cap is lowered, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has said.

The UK government is planning to reduce the cap from £26,000 to £23,000.

However, figures included in CIH’s UK Housing Review briefing show that couples with three children would not have enough money to meet the average rent for a three-bedroom housing association home in the Midlands or the south of England.

They would not be able to pay the average rent for three-bedroom social housing in many parts of the north of England either.

The briefing, which is being launched tomorrow at Housing 2015, CIH’s annual conference and exhibition, looks at the amount of money couples will have to pay their housing costs if they are affected by the cap.

The CIH has already found evidence of welfare reform driving poorer families out of the private rented sector in parts of London.

The number of people claiming housing benefit in the private rented sector has fallen by about a third in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea between March 2011 and February 2015, and by 11.5 per cent across inner London as a whole.

Gavin Smart, CIH deputy chief executive, said: “People affected by the current cap already face significant barriers to finding work, including a lack of job seeking skills and affordable childcare. Our UK Housing Review briefing shows that lowering the cap would make huge swathes of the country unaffordable for larger families on benefits.

“Where will these people go? Being forced to move large distances away will make it even harder to find work, because they could be cut off from the support network they rely on for childcare for example.”

He added: “Action to restrict entitlement to benefits is at best a stop gap measure and at worst increases poverty and misery for already poor and vulnerable people. Long-term, effective action would focus on increasing our housing supply not further restricting access to our already insufficient and inadequate supply of homes.”

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