Some families on benefits in London are left with just £44 a week to survive on after paying their rent, according to new analysis by a children's charity.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) warns “children and families are being pushed into deep poverty” as it calls for the "deeply harmful" benefit cap to be scrapped.
A decade ago - on April 15, 2013 - the cap was introduced under the then-Conservative and Liberal Democrat government, which hailed it as a way of "restoring fairness to the welfare state".
It sees the amount of benefits a household receives reduced to ensure claimants do not receive more than the cap limit.
The CPAG said its analysis suggested that in some areas of London, despite the cap being higher, a lone parent with three children has to cover all non-housing costs on £44 per week.
It added that “nowhere fares as badly as London," with parents in the same situation left with £106 a week in Guildford, £147 in Brighton and Hove and £170 in Oxford.
“The government claims that the benefit cap is needed as a work incentive", said CPAG in its new report. “However, the government’s own evaluation of the policy found that the vast majority of capped households do not move into work.”
A government-commissioned evaluation, published in April, found that while the introduction of the cap saw some people move into paid work, move home or onto a benefit that exempted them, about 90%, of those affected did not and therefore just experienced a reduction in income.
The introduction of the cap saw claimants spending less on their children and essentials such as heating and food, the report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said. “Removing the cap would only cost £300 million, 0.1% of the total amount spent on social security," the CPAG said, arguing that scrapping the cap would “substantially reduce the depth of poverty for the 250,000 children".
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The charity's chief executive Alison Garnham said: “The government is at its most illogical with its benefit cap, the Department of Work and Pensions assesses families’ needs, determines their entitlement, then slaps a flat-rate cap on that entitlement, denying families what the department itself says they need. “So needs don’t get met, entitlements aren’t paid and 250,000 children are trapped by the cap in deep poverty. “No family should have to live on £44 a week. There is no rhyme or reason to the benefit cap and it is deeply harmful to children."
A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable which is why we’ve increased the benefits cap in line with inflation and are providing record financial support worth around £3,300 per household. “Our actions have helped nearly two million people, including 400,000 children, out of absolute poverty after housing costs since 2010, while the benefit cap provides both a strong work incentive and a vital safety net for those who need it.”