The Benefit Cap: Is it working?

The Benefit Cap: Is it working?

19:00 PM, 13th April 2017, About 5 years ago 24

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On Wednesday 5th April 2017 evening BBC1 Panorama featured “The Benefit Cap: Is It Working?” Seminar details: Caridon

The programme was similar to Dispatches Benefit Families recently featured on Channel 4.

The reporter followed 5 families over 5 months to see how they were affected by the benefit cap and whether they were coping.

Caroline Nokes MP, Minister for Welfare Delivery was featured at the beginning of the programme and made the following statement “The benefit cap was introduced to try and level the playing field between families that are in work and those that are reliant on benefits and to incentivise work”

The show featured Sarah a single mother of 7 children, 3 of which are in foster care, whilst the other 4 remain in Sarah’s care. Sarah has not worked for 17 years and says that she is not currently in the position to work because she has no stable accommodation which hinders her employability.

Prior to the benefit cap Sarah received £428 per week in benefits, following the cap, her benefits were reduced by £44.00 per week causing Sarah to fall into arrears as the £44.00 was deducted from her housing benefit weekly entitlement. Sarah lost her home and belongings.

As a result of her unstable living conditions Sarah’s children were placed with others whilst she resided on her sisters’ sofa.

Whilst looking for accommodation Sarah met with a benefit advisor to check at what rate she would not be affected by the benefit cap and was advised that with 3 children or under, she would fit into the exemption criteria as her benefits would not exceed the £20,000 a year cap threshold. Sarah was told if she chose this option she may have to choose which of her children would stay in her care and which to put into foster care or with family members to prevent her from falling into the arrears again because of the cap.

Eventually Sarah was offered a Council property and was granted £30.00 from Social Services to move and to also provide her with basic necessities. Sarah took her youngest daughter Frankie back to move into the new house with her. This was short lived as Sarah found herself in a catch 22 situation, she could not claim benefits for the children until they lived with her but the property was unsuitable for the children as Sarah could not provide beds or furniture form them.

Social Services were aware of her situation and agreed to take Sarah to collect some furniture but they failed to show up they later contacted her to inform her that they were unable to offer her a lift to collect the furniture.

At the end of the show it was explained that Sarah was not in receipt of Housing Benefit and could possibly fall into the same cycle again.

The show then went onto feature Kim and her husband Steve who have 4 children. Both have been out of work for 9 years. For them to be exempt from the cap they would have to work 24 hours a week between them.

Kim suffers with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and depression. Steve has an injury on his arm from previous employment and is restricted from work.

They are affected by the benefit cap and only receive £2.00 per week Housing Benefit they are expected to make up the difference from their other benefits which they have been unable to do, so they have fallen behind and are at risk of losing their home. Although Steve spends approximately £40.00 per week on beers and cigarettes.

The family went to the Council to apply for a DHP to meet their rental obligation this was granted up until March when the family will have to make a new application if their circumstances do not change and they have not found employment.

Coleen’s story was slightly different from the others, Coleen is a 60 year old widow who gave up work to take up kinship of her 4 grandchildren as their mother was unfit to care for them. Colleen used to receive £467.00 per week in benefits which was reduced by £75.00 per week. Her housing benefit entitlement is £50.00 per week because of the cap and like the other families featured she is in arrears.

What is different about Colleen’s story is that she receives £29,000 per year kinship allowance in addition to her state benefits. She firmly states that the money is for her grandchildren so that they can have a good life, enjoy various activities and holidays. She does not feel that she should top up the rent from the kinship allowance that she receives, as those on carers allowance are exempt from the benefit cap, and she is campaigning for the same rulings to apply to kinship guardians.

If her grandchildren went into care it would cost the Local Authority approximately £100,000 to mind them.

We also followed the story of single dad of 4 Bruce, on his quest to find employment but finding it difficult due to child care issues.

He applied for a job in Barclays Bank and was successful but turned down the position as the hours were advertised as 20 hours per week but in fact the job was 25 hours per week. Bruce ideally wanted to work 16-21 hours.

Lastly, we followed Maria a single mother of 3 who has been out of work for 10 years. Her weekly benefit were £450 now cut by £65.00 per week due to the benefit cap.

Again, Maria is expected to cover her rent shortfall from her other benefits and is now £700.00 in arrears causing the Housing Association to serve notice on her, she has applied for a DHP to assist her with the shortfall and to clear the arrears luckily this was awarded short term.

8 years ago Maria was badly assaulted since then she has severe pain in her lower back meaning she cannot lift or bend and is also incontinent, however, DWP have assessed her as being able to work. In order for her to be exempt from the cap she will need to work 16 hours a week.

Throughout the show Maria is seen at the food bank in Wirral and often runs out of hot water or gas and is struggling.

Since the benefit cap has been introduced the Government has reportedly saved £150 million and continues to pay £100 billion in benefits for those of working age which is not really a significant saving considering the other associated costs that the Local Authority bear. To date more than 66,000 households have been capped, from this figure 11 per cent have had their housing benefit cut to 50 pence per week affecting 7585 families.

Since the initial benefit cap came into force only 1 in 20 have responded and are now employed and only 5% was offered a job within a year. Of the people featured in the programme, only 1 found a job which he had to turn down as it was not practical.

I’m sure most LHA/Universal Credit Landlords watched the show but for those landlords who never I thought I would give an overview, the programme is also available to watch on BBC IPlayer.

Again, I would love to hear your views!!

Regards

Sherrelle



Comments

by Robert Mellors

13:50 PM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "sam " at "15/04/2017 - 11:51":

Hi Sam

I agree that the system we have does not work very well. Like you say, it probably started off with the best intentions but it is no longer fit for purpose and is riddled with unfairness. There are also perhaps a few who are scamming the system, but I think this happens with every system in every country (e.g. Starbucks or Google's tax payments!!!!). However, I do know that both the Universal Credit system, and the Benefit Cap, will cause higher knock on costs, neither of them will save the taxpayer any money, they will both end up costing more, so if it is unfair for the taxpayers to be paying to support other people, then creating new policies that will ultimately result in higher costs, e.g. UC and Benefit Cap, certainly is not the answer!

My "disgust" was your implication that welfare benefits should not be provided to those who need that support, and instead they should be left without financial support and be made to fend for themselves, (and I gave my own experience as an example of a household that has needed welfare benefit support in the past). I spent many years paying taxes into the system, then had a change of circumstances and needed support for a few years, and eventually got back on my feet and started paying taxes in to the system again. Without the support of welfare benefits for that interim period, I would not be where I am now, or be in a position to help hundreds of others every year.

I do understand the "give a man a fish" analogy, but the man needs to house, clothe, and feed his family while he is learning to fish, and he needs the right equipment to be able to fish, and the pond/river/sea needs to contain enough fish. Also, some learn quicker than others, or have more natural skills than others, so the period of support needed will differ from one person to another.

You've mentioned that you did not claim benefits, but not everyone is in that position or has the same ability as you. But you mentioned that you were in social housing, which I would point out is subsidised and paid for in part by the taxpayers. Is this fair on all the taxpayers who could not get the subsidised social housing that they were in effect already paying towards (but you were living in)? - No, of course it is not fair, the various welfare systems we have are often not fair, it causes social divide and pits people against each other, but it is the system we've got, and in my opinion it is better than leaving people to starve on the streets. Berating or stigmatising the unemployed is not going to help, and nor is introducing a Benefit Cap that will cost the taxpayers even more (due to the "hidden" costs already mentioned).

by Jonathan Clarke

15:54 PM, 15th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "sam " at "15/04/2017 - 01:02":

Hi Sam

I agree the system needs to change but cutting the HB bill in this way means any taxpayers money saved simply pops up and is spent in the consequential fallout elsewhere in NHS/ Police / prisons / drug rehab / probation / social services / temporary accommodation etc

Its too severe and is counterproductive in my view. The tax payer ends up paying more not less. The tax burden just shifts but it doesn`t disappear. Its a very clumsy attempt at a remedy I feel by this government

There are many people out there who are simply not as capable as you and they cant pick themselves up and do what you did and just get on with it .
Listening to your background I see you have willpower and have been a fighter and all credit to you but some are just not as strong as you. They want to be like you but they cant

I agree though that many have muscled their way in on the HB system and just want a free ride. But many many are dysfunctional and have mental health problems and have led and always will lead chaotic lives. The difficulty we have is working out who is a freeloader and who needs support. The government has just made no real effort to differentiate between those that really need welfare support and those who can function and should function without its crutch. They need to do that really for it to be effective and work . What they have done and implemented is simply not good enough . Its a sliding complex scale of who needs what . But they just hit everyone with the same insensitive one size fits all corporate stick

You used the term `collateral damage`. Maybe on reflection you want to review your use of that particular term. I would like to think you did not mean it to come across like that . That term has very negative connotations and is used by leaders distant from the front line as a convenient phrase to justify a policy. War Generals use it- They mean killing civilians as an unintended consequence of killing a war combatant.

We are talking about Britain in 2017. We are not at war and we have the worlds 5th largest economy. So we have the cash but its just the allocation and distribution of that cash that is quite rightly up for debate.

Its a wake up call for some yes and some of my LHA tenants have now got jobs ... But likewise I have had HB tenants on suicide watch by their family because of HB caps. Its making already weak and vulnerable people fall dangerously ill through the constant sick and worry of losing their homes when they receive a sec 21 .

I believe our country has a wholly disproportionate percentage of our population on or below the poverty line when set against our GDP figure
Something had to be done to redress and balance up the welfare budget but the damage done by HB caps as now being implemented by this government along with other negative measures is too cruel in many instances . I believe it is verging on abuse of some of my tenants human rights.

by Mick Roberts

6:56 AM, 16th April 2017, About 5 years ago

Sam,

The thing is, this ain't about u or what u did. You are obviously one of them that can & will get up & do something.
I don't give my life story on here, I was homeless at 18 19, lived in car (although I was getting £4 benefits a day to buy my food), & worked like u did 16 hours a day etc.

BUT some people ain't like me & u & the Tory Govt.

You will always have so many segments in society, that if u learn him how to fish, he won't take it in. It's wrong I know, but when u see & know so many benefit tenants, u understand 'em. I have some great ones who want to work as soon as their kid is old enough, but then there's others, who will walk left when you've asked 'em to walk right.

There will always be a percentage that go & do something & always a percentage that don't, it's been like that for hundreds of years.

It is abuse Jonathan, that blonde gal on the Benefit cap was my tenant, she's lost her kids, she has one year old kid, so can't work. I know some may see it wrong having so many kids, but do we make them homeless?

by Chris @ Possession Friend

11:23 AM, 16th April 2017, About 5 years ago

ABSOLUTELY, spot on Mick,
It would be so much of a problem if the free-loaders and spongers ( which isn't Everyone on Benefit ) were a small minority.
The Disability system is wholesale Fraudulently geared by the encouragement of the way its set up and { not ] effectively monitored.
There are who generations of families who have never, and Never intend to work.
These people know more about what Benefits they can claim than the DWP do.


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