Benefit cap having 'profound impact' on people's lives - while new analysis shows families could be missing out on vital funding
Figures released today by the Department for Work and Pensions show that 53,000 households had their housing benefit capped at November 2018 – 74 per cent (39,000) were single-parent families, and 76 per cent of those (29,000) had at least one child aged under five.
Meanwhile analysis from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) showed that families could be missing out on vital funding designed to help soften the impact of the benefit cap. Councils in England were allocated almost £53 million in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) from central government in 2017-18 to support people affected by the benefit cap. But they only spent £37 million, with 242 out of 274 councils failing to spend all of their allocation.
CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said: "Today’s figures show that the lower benefit cap continues to have a profound effect on people’s lives – while our analysis shows that many could be missing out on vital funding which is supposed to help soften the impact.
"It is punishing tens of thousands of people who will find it most difficult to escape by finding work, like single parents with very young children and people who aren’t able to work. Seven out of 10 households who had their housing benefit capped are single-parent families, and three quarters of those have a child under five. Another 13 per cent are receiving employment and support allowance, meaning they’re not currently fit for work.
"More than 40 per cent of the households affected are losing more than £50 a week, which means that thousands of families are facing a daily struggle – some even going without food or heating so they can pay for their housing, or falling behind with their rent and being put at risk of homelessness. We believe the government must scrap the reduced cap or risk making things even worse."
CIH analysis shows that councils in England were allocated almost £53 million in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) from central government in 2017-18 to support people affected by the benefit cap. But they only spent £37 million, with 242 out of 274 councils failing to spend all of their allocation – including 71 in the areas that were worst affected by the benefit cap.
Terrie Alafat CBE said: “There may be reasons why some councils haven’t spent all the money they are allocated to support people affected by the benefit cap, but we would urge them to take a look at how they are spending their Discretionary Housing Payments – this funding can be a lifeline to people who are really struggling.”
CIH analysis of local authority use of DHPs to support households affected by the benefit cap is based on Department for Work and Pensions statistics on the use of DHPs 2017-18. It is part of an ongoing piece of work examining the way councils have been using DHPs over the last five years.