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One year on, benefits cap is pushing people into poverty

A year since the introduction of the benefits cap, new figures from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) show its impact on households.

The cap on benefits was introduced in November 2016 and reduces the total amount any family can receive in benefits from £26,000 to £23,000 in London and £20,000 outside the capital.

More than 68,000 families had been affected by the cap, with almost a third of those losing between £50-100 a week as a result.

The housing organisation interviewed 18 families affected by the cap. Half of those interviewed said that they had gone without food or fuel or were otherwise in serious debt as a result of the cap, which had led to a weekly drop in income of between £6-£170.

Rent arrears was the most common type of debt found among those interviewed. Six households had used food banks as a result of having no money to buy food, while others had turned to family members for help, many of whom were in financial difficulties themselves.

All but one interviewee spoke of greater stress levels within the household as a result of the cap, and those with pre-existing health conditions were finding it more difficult to cope with their challenges.

Chief executive of the CIH, Terrie Alafat, said: ‘One year after the introduction of the lower benefit cap its worrying effects are very much apparent.

‘The government says the aim of the cap is to get people into work, but many of the families who have been capped receive benefits which recognise they are not able to work and the concern is that many more families could be a redundancy or period of ill health away from being in this situation’.

She said that while the government had made a number of commitments to help solve the housing crisis, the benefits cap is an example of a welfare policy which ‘seriously undermines’ that commitment by making housing ‘virtually unaffordable to a significant number of people’.

She called on government should use the budget to scrap the lower benefit cap.

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