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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Government has no moral ground to maintain benefit cap


Responding to the Work and Pensions Select Committee's report on the benefit cap, CIH deputy chief executive, Gavin Smart, says the cap has increased poverty and hardship among the poorest households in the country.

The Government’s justification for the cap was that it would encourage more people into work; restore “fairness” to the benefit system, by ensuring a non-working family does not receive more in benefits than a working family gets from going to work; and make financial savings. However, the committee’s report shows that 82% of those hit by the benefit cap are people who by the DWP’s own terms are unable to work for the time being, including single mothers of small children and those who are unwell.

We agree with the Committee’s conclusion that the claim of “fairness” does not hold, because it fails to take account of benefits received by working families (such as child benefit), so that those in work are already better off even without the cap. Further, the Committee’s evidence shows that the cap is largely failing in its stated objective of getting people back into work with less than one in 20 households affected by it doing so.

We fully support the Committee’s recommendations to:

  • Only apply the benefit cap only to people who are expected to look for work (those claiming job seekers allowance and people who are claiming universal credit who in the “all work-related” activity group). (This would exempt at least 60% who are currently affected)
  • Include the income in-work families receive from benefits in its calculations.
  • Immediately exempt claimants in temporary accommodation from the cap.
  • Protect some elements of Universal Credit from the benefit cap, to make sure that the household’s basic needs can still be met. This should include a claimant’s standard allowance as well as elements for children and disabled people.
  • Increase cap levels in line with inflation. 

But we would go further still; our recent work on domestic violence demonstrates that women escaping domestic violence can often be affected by the cap as soon as they move out. This is clearly unacceptable and requires urgent attention.

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