03 November 2016

Churches say Benefit Cap is "damaging" and overwhelmingly targets families with children

  • New Benefit Cap statistics show that 19 out of 20 families whose benefits were cut have children.
  • Only 14% of families affected claimed Job Seekers Allowance and were expected to look for work.
  • Churches[1]representing more than 800,000 people in the UK have said that it "cannot be morally acceptable to leave children without enough to live on"

Today's Government statistics on the Benefit Cap reveal that over a quarter of a million children have been affected by the Cap since it was introduced in April 2013. Additionally, the majority of families affected were accepted as not being able to work due to illness, disability or caring responsibilities.

The Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church have spoken out against the Benefit Cap.

Speaking on behalf of the joint Churches, Paul Morrison, Policy Adviser said: "It is clear that the Benefit Cap overwhelmingly targets children - 19 out of every 20 families whose benefits had been capped have children." 

The current Benefit Cap - the limit on the total amount of benefits a family can receive - is set at £26,000 per year. For a family to need such high levels of benefit they tend to live in a region where high rents drive up the Housing Benefit bill. Currently around half of capped households are in London.

From the Monday 7 November the Benefit Cap will be reduced to £23,000 in London and £20,000[2] for the rest of the UK. This will increase the number of families affected and spread the impact of the cap more widely throughout the UK. 

Paul said: "The lower Benefit Cap could be disastrous for tens of thousands more children throughout the country. We know, from our experience on the ground and the Government's own research, [3] that the Benefit Cap drives people into rent arrears, debt and hunger."

Today's statistics revealed that only 14% of families capped were unemployed and claiming Jobseekers Allowance. The same number of families received benefit because they were assessed as being unable to work due to illness or disability; others are unable to work due to caring responsibilities for children or disabled adults.

The Government claims that the Benefit Cap is designed to get people into work, but it also acknowledges that most families affected have illness or caring responsibilities that prevent them from working. 

Paul added: "Over 2,000 single parents with babies under a year of age had their Housing Benefit cut because of the cap each month. Does the Government seriously expect that cutting Housing Benefit will make it easier for them to find work? 

It cannot be morally acceptable to leave children without enough to live on in order to pressurise their parents into work. This is doubly true if those parents have no prospect of moving into work because they are sick or caring for family members."

In November 2015 a coalition of Churches published the report  "Enough" supporting the principle families should have enough to live on. The report argued that benefits should be set at a level that meets a family's basic needs and should not be eroded by the Benefit Cap or the 2-child rule introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2016.

YouGov survey commissioned by the Churches revealed that 61% of UK adults believe that welfare benefits should be set at a level that allows families with children to cover their basic costs.



* Paul Morrison is available for interview - contact Toby Fairclough  via email or on 0207 467 5208.

[1] The Joint Public Issues Team combines the expertise of the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church in the area of public issues, representing more than 800,000 people in the UK

[2]  For a single person the new Cap is set at 2/3s of this rate (£15,410 inside London and £13,400 outside).

[3] For example  Post-implementation effects of the Benefit Cap: Headline findings (2014) analysis of this and other data in the  Enough report.

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