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“10 years in”: UK benefit cap forcing families to live on £44 a week

This news post is 8 months old

Scottish Government mitigation “hugely welcome” but policy needs “scrapped at source” say campaigners in anniversary call. 

Ten years since the benefit cap was introduced across Britain, new research shows families affected by the policy have as little as £44 a week to live on after they’ve paid housing costs.

The research, from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), shows in the ten years since the policy was introduced, the number of families affected by it has grown substantially as benefits have risen, albeit by less than inflation, while the cap has stayed frozen for the best part of a decade. 

When it was introduced in 2013, only a handful of families in areas of particularly high housing costs were affected by the cap and lost only small amounts of their benefit to it. But now, a lone parent with three children would be capped in over half of rental areas across Britain, the research finds.  

While for those families that would have been capped previously, the amount of benefits that families lose when the cap is applied, has grown substantially.

In Scotland the Scottish Government has committed to mitigate the impact of the benefit cap as fully as possible. 

Households are still capped as elsewhere in the UK, but anyone eligible for a discretionary housing payment who applies because they are affected by the cap should be awarded one. 

The cap limits the amount of social security support that households with no work or low earnings can receive and overrides the amount that the DWP assesses a family to need. 

“The cap is the same for a family of two as a family of five, meaning that households with children who rent their homes and therefore have higher costs are affected most deeply by the flat-rate of the cap. 

“Lone parents are also disproportionately likely to be capped because they face higher barriers to work and struggle to meet the earnings threshold to escape the cap.

CPAG calls on all political leaders to commit to removing the benefit cap in order to substantially reduce the depth of poverty for the 250,000 children living in households affected by it.

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland said: “The Scottish Government’s mitigation of the impact of the UK benefit cap is hugely welcome but all the Westminster political leaders must now commit to scrapping it at source before it pulls more children into its net. 

“It is utterly illogical for the Department of Work and Pensions to assesses families’ needs, determine their entitlement, then slap a flat-rate cap on that entitlement, denying families what the department itself says they need. 

“So needs don’t get met, entitlements aren’t paid and 250,000 children across the UK are trapped by the cap in deep poverty.   

“No family should have to live on £44 a week. There is no rhyme or reason to the benefit cap and it is deeply harmful to children.”