Large families worst hit by benefit cap

Neil Puffett
Friday, November 8, 2013

Households with large numbers of children are being overwhelmingly worst hit by the government's benefit cap, latest figures show.

Statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show that of the 18,024 households subject to the cap as of September this year, all but 369 (two per cent) featured children.

Of those affected, 7,730 households (43 per cent) had five or more children and 4,721 (26 per cent) had four children.

A total of 3,443 (19 per cent) had three children, 1,326 (seven per cent) had two children, and 435 (two per cent) had a single child.

The figures have stoked concerns that the cap will negatively impact on living standards for some of the poorest children.

Peter Grigg, director of campaigns and policy at The Children’s Society said the figures show that "once again children are bearing the brunt of government cuts".

"The vast majority of those who will be affected by the benefit cap have children," he said.

"This means that parents who are already struggling to make ends meet to provide their children with the basics, will have even less to spend on food, clothing and rent.

"We fully support efforts to make work pay, but punishing children is not the way to do this and will have damaging effects for these children – both now and in the future."

David Holmes, chief executive of Family Action, said: “We are concerned about the impact of the benefit cap on large families and on the children in those large families. 

"It is striking that the new DWP statistics reveal that 69 per cent of the households affected by the cap have four or more children. 

"We know that large families are more likely to struggle with the cost of living and often need more support.”

The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits that couples and lone-parent households can receive to around £500 a week or £26,000 a year.

The government argues this figure is the equivalent of the average household income after tax – or a gross household salary of £35,000.

The figures show that since the cap was implemented in pilot areas in April, a total of 19,276 households have been affected, but 1,271 households subsequently had the cap lifted for unspecified reasons.

National implementation of the benefit cap was rolled out in two “tranches”. The cap was piloted from April in four local authority areas – Bromley, Croydon, Enfield, and Haringey – with remaining authorities in England applying the cap between July and the end of September.

The total number of households affected could be set to increase because some authorities may have supplied data for the month of September to the DWP prior to the cap being implemented.

So far, London is the area where the most households have been capped – making up 33.5 per cent of the total (6,451 households).

The least affected area is the North East, making up 3.4 per cent of the total (653 households).

Last month, a report by the Chartered Institute of Housing predicted that the government's benefit cap will struggle to meet its aims of encouraging people into work and saving money.

A study by the organisation found that just 10 per cent of 747 households affected in Haringey were known to have found jobs and nearly half got extra funds from the council to make up for money lost.

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