Benefits cap hits Sheffield families hard

Benefits cap hitting families hard
Benefits cap hitting families hard

Benefit caps have been imposed on hundreds of families in Sheffield over the last year, new figures show.

The vast majority of families capped had children, with housing charity Shelter warning that across the country households are being "tipped into homelessness".

The latest Department for Work and Pensions figures show that between September 2018 and August this year, 251 families had their housing benefits docked in Sheffield.

The majority of capped claimants were single parents with children. Couples with children accounted for a further 45% of cases.

In London, couples with children are limited to an annual income from all benefits of £23,000, or £442 a week. Outside the capital, the cap is lower, at £20,000.

There are lower rates for single parents and households without children. Some people are exempt from the cap, including those who receive working tax credits, or claim carer's or guardian's allowances.

Over the last year, 20 households in Sheffield were docked more than £100 a week.

Since benefit capping was first brought in April 2013, 1,399 households in Sheffield have been subject to the measures.

The chief executive of housing charity Shelter, Polly Neate, said: “As these figures show, the brutal benefit cap is continuing to wreak havoc on family life. Too many are battling to put food on the table and pay the rent, while others have been tipped into homelessness.

“Surely we should be helping these families up – not making their lives even harder. We constantly speak to parents who desperately want to work all the hours they can to avoid the cap, but come up against childcare issues and insecure or part-time hours.

“The cap is cruel and ineffective, and fails to recognise that single parents might face barriers to working. The Government needs to lose the ‘one size fits all’ approach and do the right thing by scrapping the cap.”

Louisa McGeehan, director of policy at the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The benefit cap is increasing child poverty by breaking the link between a family’s needs and the support they receive.

"It discriminates particularly against lone parents and their children as they are more likely to be capped and less able to avoid its impact because of their caring responsibilities.

"Our social security system should be there for people when they need it most and this is just one example of a number of harsh measures that together keep children trapped in poverty, unable to enjoy a childhood full of opportunity and free of disadvantage.”

Since April 2013, nearly 193,000 households in Great Britain have had their benefits capped.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said 70% of households nationally were no longer subject to caps, and that work remains the best route out of poverty.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said: "Our welfare reforms are supporting more and more people into work – in fact since 2010 we have seen an average of 1,000 more people moving into employment each and every day.

"Under the old system, over 1 million people spent most of a decade trapped on benefits. In stark comparison we now have seen record levels of employment.

"And the benefit cap ensures we have a fairer system – fair for the taxpayer and fair for claimants – as well as a system that incentivises work."