Government's £500 total weekly benefit cap begins roll out

The government's total weekly benefit cap has begun rolling out across Britain.

Single parents and couples aged 16 to 24 will now only be able to claim a total of £500 a week in benefits, whilst people living alone will be capped at £350.

Welfare pay-outs such as housing benefit and jobseeker's allowance count towards the collective weekly cap.

The government drove through the changes on the pretext that people on benefits shouldn't be 'earning' more than those in work, and believes that the cap brings welfare pay-outs more in line with average wages.

Those in receipt of Disability Living Allowance are not affected by the cap.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) believes the government is right to tackle the issue of benefits being higher than wages, but has argued that the cap will not work everywhere and that housing benefit pay-outs should be left out of the equation.

NHF director Ruth Davison said: “In many parts of the country, families won’t be able to pay high private rents because of the cap. There will be more demand than ever for affordable housing, particularly in Greater London where nearly half (49%) of the people affected by the benefit cap live.

“Families could face the stark choice of cutting back on essentials or having to move away long distances from their support networks to look for cheaper places to live. Until we see a long-term affordable house building programme that will drive down the price of rents for everybody, housing costs should be removed from the cap.”

Alison Taylor, director of Turn2us, a charitable service which helps people access benefits available to them,  said: “With the benefits cap rolling out across Britain from today, there will undoubtedly be many people worried about the impact this will have on their lives. As recently as April, a Turn2us survey found that a staggering 85% of people were concerned about the changes to the welfare benefit system.

“While a simplification of the benefits system on the whole is a welcome move, the results from the cap being trialled in four London boroughs make for worrying reading. Four out of five people affected were lone parents and only 58 of the over 2,000 households did not have dependent children living with them. With the Government estimating that the cap will impact 40,000 households, we’re concerned that the most vulnerable are going to be hit even harder.

“In addition, the focus on a cap does not solve the main issues which lead to a growing benefit bill, notably a lack of affordable housing, the high costs of housing in the south of the country and work that does not pay enough. With the results from the trials hitting lone parents, those in high rent areas and large families hard, the cap may only exacerbate problems."