Welfare cap hits five times as many Scottish families since November
Concerns over homelessness after sharp rise in the number of households having their benefits cut to meet lower welfare cap
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The number of families who have seen their benefits cut as a result of the UK Government’s welfare cap has increased five-fold since November, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures have revealed.
The figure, which is more conservative than previous estimates, indicates the scale of impact of a reduction in the cap from £26,000 to £20,000 last year as a result of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2015.
According to the DWP figures, 3,705 households faced a cap on the level of benefits they received in May 2017, up from 745 in the previous year.
The cap applies to child benefit, jobseeker’s allowance and income support, but it is usually applied by reducing the amount of housing benefit paid to the claimant, leading to risks of homelessness.
The figures follow a ruling by the High Court last month which found the benefits cap discriminatory against single parents.
“Real misery is being caused to no good purpose,” the judge ruled.
Meanwhile, Scottish Welfare Fund statistics recently revealed housing costs have contributed to a 15 per cent increase in applications for a crisis loan in the last year.
Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scotland, told Holyrood: “Many of the families that come to us for advice say the benefit cap is pushing them into homelessness.
“Many desperately want to work but can’t make up the required hours of work a week due to childcare issues or insecure work like zero hours contracts.
“This policy will further disrupt the lives of children already growing up in difficult circumstances.”
Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Alex Rowley said the increase was “a shocking figure”.
“Child poverty is increasing in this country and yet all the Tories are concerned about doing is shrinking the welfare state,” he said.
“Rather than penalising children for failed austerity plans, Labour would make tackling child poverty a priority with our plan to increase child benefit for every family in Scotland.”
In response to the High Court ruling, a DWP spokesperson said: “The benefit cap incentivises work, even if it's part-time, as anyone eligible for working tax credits or the equivalent under Universal Credit, is exempt.
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