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"Unjust": Charity calls for end to UK Government benefit cap

 

The cap is deeply unpopular, with reports suggesting households have been left without enough money to eat or pay their bills.

Anti-poverty campaigners are calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to end the benefit cap – as new figures show that the numbers affected could rocket next year.

The benefit cap was introduced by the UK Government in 2013, blocking households from getting all the help they are entitled to from the social security system, and not rising with inflation.

New figures show that households outside London are now losing out on a massive £1,800 a year – compared to what they would have got if the cap had risen with prices.

And when the Chancellor fulfils a pledge to increase benefits in line with inflation in April next year, that will massively increase the number of households who will have their benefits capped – from around 120,000 to around 150,000.

The Poverty Alliance has now written to the Chancellor, calling on him to scrap the cap, or at least raise it in line with living costs.

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “The benefit cap is completely unjust and should have no place in a compassionate society. It cuts the lifeline that people need and are entitled to.

“The present crisis is simply the latest episode of an ongoing injustice, where people’s incomes have fallen and the social security net that we all rely on has been deliberately cut, with the benefit cap being just one example.”

The Poverty Alliance is co-ordinating the Scrap the Cap campaign, supported by over 100 organisations across the UK including the Church of Scotland, Save the Children UK, the Child Poverty Action Group, One Parent Families Scotland, and the Trussell Trust.

In 2013, UK Government polling found that the benefit cap was supported by 73 per cent of people. But now a survey carried out by Survation for the Poverty Alliance in March found that – excluding don’t-knows – 57 per cent of people now think the UK Government should remove the cap.

A survey of households affected by the benefit cap found families who have been evicted from homes, fallen into problem debt, or kept children from school because they cannot afford the associated costs. 

Nearly two-thirds of households said that in a normal month they do not have enough money to cover basic household expenses like food, rent, electricity and gas. Many also said that the cap has led to increased mental and physical health problems, as well as households being forced into using food banks, and into borrowing money from friends and family and payday lenders. 

Mr Kelly added: “The very least the Chancellor can do is to make sure that the cap is raised in line with the real cost of living. Better still, he should find the courage and compassion to scrap the cap altogether.”

A Government spokesman said: “The benefit cap, up to the equivalent salary of £24,000, balances fairness for taxpayers with providing a vital safety net.

“We keep the cap under review and any revision would align with the timing of decisions on uprating benefits, with changes taking effect the following April.

“We understand that people are struggling with rising prices which is why we have acted to protect the 8 million most vulnerable families through at least £1,200 of direct payments this year. All households will receive the £400 energy payments, 80% will get a £150 Council Tax rebate and those on the lowest income will get £650 in Cost of Living Payments – none of these payments count towards the benefit cap.”

 

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