Big rise in families hit by 'cruel' benefit cap

By agency reporter
August 4, 2017

Government figures published yesterday (3 August) show a huge jump in the number of households hit by the benefit cap since it was lowered in November 2016, with many areas of the country seeing more than a threefold rise. The number of households capped nationally rose by 240 per cent (from 20,096 to 68,079).

The impact of the cap has spread far beyond London: before the cap was lowered, the capital accounted for 40 per cent of capped households but now accounts for 23 per cent.  

The figures show the large majority of families (70 per cent) affected are lone parents with very young children, whom the DWP does not require to work.  Seventy eight per cent of single parents affected have at least one child under five, including 35 per cent with a child under two.  Only 17 per cent  of capped households claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (ie are in a position where they are required to seek work).

Smaller families are also being dragged into the cap: three-child families are now most likely to be affected (41 per cent of those capped), compared to five -or-more-child families at November.

Half of capped households lose up to £50 per week and the number of families capped by £50 to £100 went up from 25 per cent (5,100) at August 2016 to 33 per cent (22,000) at May 2017.

Imran Hussain, of Child Poverty Action Group said, “The benefit cap is a cruel policy that’s been mis-sold to the public.  Ministers say the benefit cap is about getting the unemployed into work, but their own figures show only 17 per cent of households hit by it are in that position. The vast majority of households made poorer by the benefit cap are led by adults whom the rest of the benefits system accepts cannot work because they are lone parents, often with very young children, or cannot work due to illness or disability. 

“The cap may be impoverishing more and more young families, and putting parents who the DWP knows can’t work through untold stress, but it isn’t helping people into work. We already know the impact on work incentives of the cap is relatively small. The government’s own evaluation showed about 16 per cent of people moved into work shortly after being capped and that 11 per cent of people would have moved into work anyway. Today’s figures underline this by showing that as children get older, fewer parents are capped, suggesting that parents are already highly motivated to work, but often it’s just not feasible with pre-school kids

“This is a huge increase in the number of families sucked into the scope of the cap.  Families affected have their incomes cut dramatically yet most can’t just take a job to escape the cap. Nor, in most cases, can they just up sticks to cheaper accommodation because more often than not there isn’t any.  And there is only so much families can cut back.  In a recent case relating to lone parents with under two year olds the High Court ruled that the cap is unlawful and causes '…real misery …to no good purpose'.  The same case can be made for lone parents with older children.  The time for discontinuing the policy has now come.”

* Child Poverty Action Group 


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