8:20 AM, 23rd March 2017, About 5 years ago 20
Did anyone watch Dispatches: Benefit Families on Channel 4 on Monday Night?
The programme started off with single mother Karen, with 5 young children living in a two bedroom council flat in Lewisham South East London, the benefit cap has affected her by £90.00 per week. This amount is taken from her Housing Benefit award and has made her incur arrears and at risk of homelessness.
The Benefit Cap is a limit on the total amount of certain benefits people of working age can get. If the overall income i.e Child Benefit, Income Support/JSA, Child Tax Credit income is above the set threshold, the Housing Benefit is reduced by that amount.
The Benefit Cap was introduced in 2013, meaning the maximum in benefits that a claimant could claim was £500 per week for single parents and couples (with or without children) and £350 per week for single people.
The Summer Budget 2015 announced changes to the level of the benefit cap meaning that households were no longer entitled to receive more than £20,000 in benefit nationally or £23,000 for those in London.
For single person with no children £13,400 nationally or £15,410 for those in London this was implemented from 7th November 2016.
At present 88,000 UK families are affected by the benefit cap and as a result of the Benefit Cap the Government has saved £155 million, despite insisting the Welfare Reform is not about saving money, but more about empowering people to get into work. Research has shown only 5% per cent of affected households moved into work under the old benefit cap, so is it really working or as Graeme Brom Chief Executive of Shelter stated “ Pushing families into poverty as the cap has no relationship to average earnings”
The programme then went on to follow the story of Samantha another single mother with 4 young children living in a three bedroom privately rented house in Croydon Surrey, she is capped by £166 per week which is deducted from her Housing benefit entitlement, again putting her into arrears. She was keen to work, but was finding it difficult to find an employer that was sympathetic and understanding of her circumstances.
Croydon Council have identified that 1000 households have less money as a result of the benefit cap and are working with tenants that are affected by the cap by offering them employment workshops and granting them with DHPs short term to pay their rent shortfall whilst they look for employment.
Interestingly, Mark Fowler Head of Welfare, stated that the average cost to Croydon Local Authority of evicting a family is £6000. He said families are also broken down resulting in some children being taken into care, this costs the Council between £16,000 to £40,000 per child, per annum.
A further study conducted by Policy and Practice has confirmed that 123 capped families have been placed into sodtly temporary accommodation within Croydon.
In Kettering Leeds the reporter went on to speak with single mum Abbi living in a two bedroom privately rented flat with her child under the age of two. Abbi was clearly struggling and in debt and regularly seeking assistance from a local voluntary organisation.
When the cap was introduced in 2013 only 225 people were affected in Leeds, this has now risen to 1000. The Chartered Institute of Housing have also identified that 11,600 families are now at risk of homelessness.
Although, the Government have given Local Authorities £185 million to ease the impact on Welfare Reform to date only £67.5 million has been used for the Benefit Cap.
Lord Kerslake Local Government Association stated that “Central Government are merely moving costs to local Government”
As we are aware Landlords are now are refusing to rent properties to those on benefits due to many issues caused by the Welfare Reform causing an extra strain on Local Authorities who have a duty of care to accommodate those who present themselves as homeless with children often in temporary accommodation.
When I watched the programme, I couldn’t help notice that all three women were single, therefore the primary careers of their young children, as they were on the breadline they openly said that they simply could not afford to pay their rent. The Government is insisting that they want people to be rewarded for working and the system to be fair, but really to me it does not seem fair to both the family and to the affected person; the Landlord.
There are very limited options available to the families affected by the Benefit Cap:
One thing for sure is the people that are affected by the benefit cap are the most vulnerable and landlords who have tenants that are affected and unable to pay the rent.
I would be interested to hear others views.
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