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

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

Today's Government statistics on the Benefit Cap revealthat over a quarter of a million children have been affected by theCap since it was introduced in April 2013. Additionally, themajority of families affected were accepted as not being able towork due to illness, disability or caringresponsibilities.

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

Speaking on behalf of the joint Churches, Paul Morrison, PolicyAdviser said: "It is clear that the Benefit Cap overwhelminglytargets children - 19 out of every 20 families whose benefits hadbeen capped have children." 

The current Benefit Cap - the limit on the total amount ofbenefits a family can receive - is set at £26,000 per year. For afamily to need such high levels of benefit they tend to live in aregion 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. Thiswill increase the number of families affected and spread the impactof the cap more widely throughout the UK. 

Paul said: "The lower Benefit Cap could be disastrous for tensof thousands more children throughout the country. We know, fromour experience on the ground and the Government's ownresearch, [3] that the Benefit Cap drives people intorent arrears, debt and hunger."

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

The Government claims that the Benefit Cap is designed to getpeople into work, but it also acknowledges that most familiesaffected have illness or caring responsibilities that prevent themfrom working. 

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

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

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

YouGov survey commissioned by the Churches revealed that61% of UK adults believe that welfare benefits should be set at alevel that allows families with children to cover their basiccosts.



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

[1] The Joint Public Issues Team combines the expertise ofthe Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church andthe 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 ofthis 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.