Tens of thousands more UK households will see their benefits capped on Monday despite little proof it grows employment
Life had already been a struggle for months when the letter arrived from the Department for Work and Pensions last week telling Alana and Mark they would be benefit capped. From Monday, it said, the amount they would receive in housing benefit support – which is already £260 a month less than their actual rent – would be cut by £50 a week.
It was a none-too-subtle signal for Alana that life was about to get several degrees harder. “Saving an extra £200 a month is going to be impossible. We can’t cover the outgoings as it is. No amount of budgeting can save that sort of money. There’s only so much you can save on buying basic label baked beans.”
Both Alana and Mark, the parents of two small children, have lost good jobs through redundancy in the past year. They have scraped by since on her maternity allowance, borrowed cash from family and friends, and sold furniture. The cap in effect now provides them with stark alternatives: either one of them gets work (thus exempting them from the cap), or they fall rapidly into rent arrears and eviction.
Alana and Mark are not alone in being handed such a brutal choice. Estimates vary, but between 88,000 and 116,000 struggling UK households have received similar benefit cap letters from the DWP in recent weeks. On average they will lose £60 a week, though in some cases it could be as high as £150 a week. For many there will be no choice: they cannot work or are unable to find it, and as a result face hunger, impoverishment and homelessness.