CPAG / OPFS Benefit Cap – Impact in Scotland Report
One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) and Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG) have published a new report today on the the impact of the lower Benefit Cap which was introduced in November 2016 to £20,000 per annum (£13,400 for single people without children). It also covers the extent to which the benefit cap is being mitigated by local authority discretionary housing payments (DHP’s).
Nearly three quarters of people affected by the benefit cap are single parents; half have a child under the age of three. Parents in this group are relatively unlikely to work considering the needs of very young children and that there is no free childcare provided for under twos and currently only 15 hours a week for two to four year olds. These parents would not be required to work or look for work in return for income support.
People can apply for a DHP from the local authority if they are in receipt of housing benefit or the housing element of universal credit and are having difficulty meeting housing costs.
CPAG and OPFS sent a Freedom of Information request to all Scottish local authorities to ask about their response to the lower benefit cap and received a response from each one. The majority of local authorities said they would determine DHP awards to mitigate the benefit cap on a case by case basis, however the response amongst other local authorities varied.
CPAG and One Parent Families Scotland are opposed to the benefit cap in principle because it breaks the link between need and entitlement which is fundamental to a means-tested social security system.
Marion Davis , Head of Policy at OPFS said
“The Benefit Cap policy causes real misery to no good purpose to single parents with very young children – babies & toddlers – who are subject to the cap despite there being no official requirement for them to find work. Single parents with children under two do not qualify for free childcare and so find it difficult and often impossible to juggle working the minimum 16 hours a week required to evade the cap while finding means to care for the child. The cap forces the single parents and children affected into poverty and homelessness, leaving them to rely on food banks and help from charities- at great cost to society both now and in the future.”