Hitting home: the benefit cap and child homelessness | CPAG

Hitting home: the benefit cap and child homelessness

Published on: 
31 May 2021
Written by: 

Carri Swann

Welfare Rights Adviser – Your Work Your Way Project

Since 2013, the benefit cap has meant that many families don’t have enough money to pay their rent. This isn’t a matter of opinion, it’s explicit in the way that benefits are calculated.

The deputy president of the Supreme Court put it best in 2015: the cap ‘breaks the link between benefit and need. Claimants affected by the cap will, by definition, not receive the sums of money which the state deems necessary for them adequately to house, feed, clothe and warm themselves and their children.’

And when capped families fall behind with rent, landlords evict them.

It’s inevitable. That’s been clear since the cap was first piloted. It’s not just private landlords who are evicting families, but local councils and housing associations too. No landlord wants to make children homeless, but there comes a point when most can’t (or won’t) endure the loss of rent income.

And as the eviction freeze lifts throughout the UK, starting in England on 1st June, a wave of family evictions is coming.

Some families will have been newly-affected by the cap because of the pandemic, while others will have been hit before that. Rent arrears which have built up since the eviction freeze began in March 2020 might be huge, with many parents forced to leave their homes owing thousands in arrears and legal costs.

Beyond the emotional impact on children of being made homeless, saying goodbye to their homes and often to their schools and friends, and going into bleak temporary accommodation, the question is: where can these families go next? Wherever they live, they will be affected by the cap.

A recent Shelter report noted that even ‘a couple with two children in a modest two-bed private rented home would have their benefits limited by the cap in more than eight in ten (82 per cent) areas of England.’ For some larger families, the figure will be 100 per cent.

So what will stop families from being evicted for a second time?

Social housing isn’t an option for most: it’s in short supply, and the cap applies here, too. Rent arrears account for the vast majority of local authority evictions. Many find that the only solution is living in the over-crowded homes of friends or family.

There is a simple solution: scrap the cap, lift 250,000 children out of deep poverty, and keep them in their homes.