Benefit caps could tip families into homelessness, warns charity

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Benefit caps have been imposed on dozens of families in South Tyneside over the last year, new figures show.

The vast majority of families capped had children, with housing charity Shelter warning that across the country households are being “tipped into homelessness”.

The latest Department for Work and Pensions figures show that between September 2017 and August this year, 71 families had their housing benefits docked in South Tyneside.

The majority of capped claimants were single parents with children. Couples with children accounted for a further 25% of cases.

In London, couples with children are limited to an annual income from all benefits of £23,000, or £442 a week. Outside the capital, the cap is lower, at £20,000.

There are lower rates for single parents and households without children.

Some people are exempt from the cap, including those who receive working tax credits, or claim carer’s or guardian’s allowances.

Over the last year, 20 households in South Tyneside were docked more than £50 a week.

Since benefit capping was first brought in April 2013, 397 households in South Tyneside have been subject to the measures.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of housing charity Shelter, said: “As these figures show, the brutal benefit cap is continuing to wreak havoc on family life.

“Too many are battling to put food on the table and pay the rent, while others have been tipped into homelessness.

“Surely we should be helping these families up – not making their lives even harder.

“We constantly speak to parents who desperately want to work all the hours they can to avoid the cap, but come up against childcare issues and insecure or part-time hours.

“The cap is cruel and ineffective, and fails to recognise that single parents might face barriers to working.

“The Government needs to lose the ‘one size fits all’ approach and do the right thing by scrapping the cap.”

Louisa McGeehan, director of policy at the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The benefit cap is increasing child poverty by breaking the link between a family’s needs and the support they receive.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said 70% of households nationally are no longer subject to caps, and that work remains the best route out of poverty.