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Not a happy return – lower Benefit Cap one year on

Blog by Jeremy Hewer, SFHA Policy Adviser.

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It is now one year since the imposition of the lower Benefit cap, from £26,000 to £20,000, and it would be fair to say that its first birthday has hardly been celebrated.

Writing in Inside Housing, CIH Head of Policy Melanie Rees wrote that in a study of 18 families hit by the lower Benefit Cap, “Half said they had gone without food, fuel or were otherwise in debt as a result and a third said they had been forced to use food banks”.

Rosie Ferguson, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, the single-parent support charity, is quoted in a Guardian article, saying: “Worryingly, the majority of those affected are families who will find it hardest to escape: single parents with very young children, when childcare is most expensive and the lack of flexible jobs felt most strongly.” The same article points to official UK Government figures that 50,000 families with 126,000 children were in danger of serious financial hardship for the first time having being caught in the lower Benefit Cap.

The lower Benefit Cap has not gone without challenge. The DWP lost a case in the High Court, which ruled that the Benefit Cap for lone parents with children under two was unlawful – the case is subject to appeal. Following that case, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has submitted a further case, arguing that the cap is unlawful for any lone parent with child care responsibilities.

CPAG suggests that any case of a lone parent with children – both under and over the age of two, should lodge an appeal now – further information together with template letters are available on the CPAG Website.