Housing experts and child poverty campaigners have lashed out against the Government’s highly controversial benefit cap, after new figures revealed that nearly 50,000 households are affected by the harsh Tory policy.
Figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that single parents are disproportionately affected by the cap, whom the Chartered Institute for Housing (CiH) say “find it most difficult to escape [the cap] by finding work”.
The benefit cap was lowered in November 2016 to £23,000 in London and £20,000 across the rest of Britain, with the majority of those hit seeing a reduction to their Housing Benefit entitlement.
According to DWP data, a shocking 72% (43,000) of affected households who had their Housing Benefit capped at May 2018 were single-parent families. 33,000 of these (76%) were single parents with a child under the age of five, while 13,000 (31%) had a child under two years of age.
Some experts and political commentators believe the cap may be contributing to the homelessness crisis sweeping Britain.
The data also shows that 57% of all capped households had their Housing Benefit cut by £50 a week or less, while 30% were capped by £50 to £100 per week. Around 1,000 households saw their Housing Benefit slashed by more than £200 a week and 240 lost a massive £300 per week.
Responding to the latest figures, Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said: “There has been a huge increase in the number of people affected by the benefit cap since it was lowered in 2016.
“Today’s figures demonstrate just how fundamentally unfair the cap is – it is disproportionately punishing people who will find it most difficult to escape by finding work.
“Seven out of 10 households who had their housing benefit capped are single-parent families, and more than three quarters of those have a child under five. Another 15 per cent are receiving employment and support allowance, meaning that they are not currently fit for work.
“With more than 40 per cent of the households affected losing more than £50 a week, thousands of families are facing a daily struggle – some even going without food or heating so they can pay for their housing, or falling behind with their rent and being put at risk of homelessness.
“Unless the government is prepared to think again and either raise the cap or remove it entirely, the consequences could be severe.”
Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The benefit cap is a cruel and misguided policy that has affected more than 560,000 children so far.
“The government claims that the main aim of the benefit cap is to incentivise work. But half of lone parents affected have a child under the age of three and are not expected to look for work.
“This means that the benefit cap is both cruel and ineffective in supporting people into work.”
The DWP championed the policy as “welfare reform success”, highlighting figures that show 49,000 formerly capped people have moved into work
“The benefit cap ensures fairness in the system by asking people on benefits to make the same financial choices as people in work”, said Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey MP.