Friday, May 05, 2017

Hitting the poor

Nearly 50,000 low-income families caring for an estimated 126,000 children are at risk of serious financial hardship after being trapped for the first time by the lower benefit cap, official figures show.

More than half of the families hit by the cap will face a shortfall of over £50 a week as a result of the cap, which limits the level of benefits payable to unemployed households. About 13% will lose between £100 and £150 a week, while more than a thousand households will lose between £200 and £300 a week.

After families already hit by the older benefit cap are taken into account, 66,000 households overall, including 197,000 children, were capped in February 2017, a threefold increase on November figures, when the previous cap was in place. Charities said the figures heralded an anticipated rise in child poverty and would exacerbate a growing homelessness crisis.

Nearly three-quarters of those capped were single-parent families, three-quarters of which had at least one child under five. Nearly one in six single parents capped had a child aged under one.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society,said: “It is deeply worrying to see that hundreds of thousands of children have been hit by the new benefit cap, cutting the money needed to keep a roof over their heads. Our concern is that this will only worsen child poverty, which is already set to balloon to 5 million by the end of the decade. While we think it’s right that work pays, it is children who are bearing the brunt of the cap.”

Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “This was always a policy more about looking tough than enabling families to work or be better off.”

Chartered Institute of Housing policy and practice officer Sam Lister said: “We remain seriously concerned that the benefit cap could have a severe impact on the families affected, make housing in large sections of Great Britain unaffordable and risk worsening what is already a growing homelessness problem.” 

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