Homeless charity Shelter is urging the Government to scrap the benefits cap for at least the duration of the pandemic after new DWP statistics revealed that more than 150,000 households have been hit by it – a 93% rise post-Covid.
Of those households capped, 43% saw their benefits docked by £50 or more per week and 17% lost £100 or more per week.
Last week, ministers refused to budge on the issue, despite warnings from the Social Security Advisory Committee that people living in areas with high rental costs were losing out due to a lack of flexibility in the system.
Since it was introduced in 2013, the cap has limited how much any one household can receive in total benefits, including Universal Credit, Housing Benefit and Child Benefit.
Families with children and couples in London can receive a maximum of £1,916.17 a month while those living outside the capital can claim up to £1,666.67.
Critics like Shelter say it has contributed to rising homelessness and family debt. Explains chief executive Polly Neate: “It’s undermining the Government’s efforts to shore up our welfare safety net.
“Many embattled parents who were already struggling with low pay and have lost their job or had their hours cut because of Covid-19 are finding themselves capped – losing vital support at the worst possible time.”
The Government has already taken some steps to help tenants and benefit claimants; in March, the 500,000-strong surge in the number of Universal Credit applications persuaded it to raise its Local Housing Allowance rates by up to 20% in some areas.
And in June, it agreed to come up with a new way of paying up to 85,000 Universal Credit claimants, after the Court of Appeal ruled that the DWP’s failure to cater for ‘non-banking day salary shift’ was unlawful.