Benefit caps hit hundreds of families in Leeds over the last six years.
Charities warned the caps have added to the misery of families teetering on the poverty line, with nearly all of those affected having children. Department for Work and Pensions figures show that 2,492 families had their housing benefits capped in Leeds between the introduction of the limits in April 2013 and February this year. Single parents accounted for the majority of the capped claimants - 65 per cent of cases.
Greg Beales, the campaign director for housing charity Shelter, said that benefit capping was pushing people towards homelessness, with single-parent families disproportionately affected. He added: “When your benefits can’t cover both rent and food you end up having to choose between the two. Lone parent families tell us how they can’t afford to feed themselves and their children, let alone cover childcare and think about returning to work. The system is entirely self-defeating.”
Scrapping the cap, raising housing benefit rates and fixing structural issues that “push so many perilously close to the trauma of homelessness” would overhaul the system into one fit for purpose, he argued.
Couples with children are limited to an annual income from all benefits of £20,000 a year, £385 each week. Single adults and lone parents whose children do not live with them have lower limits. Some people are exempt from the cap, such as those receiving tax credits or claiming carer’s or guardian’s allowances.
Over the six-year period, 312 households in Leeds were docked more than £100 a week.
A spokesman for the DWP said: “The benefit cap provides fairness to the taxpayer while ensuring there’s a safety net for the most vulnerable. Working is the best route towards prosperity and the benefit cap provides a clear incentive. More than 60,000 households have moved off the benefit cap due to starting a job or increasing their hours.”