Today sees the benefit cap – the limit on total benefits which households can receive if no-one works at least 16 hours a week – fall from £26,000 a year to £20,000, or £23,000 in London. The 20,000 or so families currently capped will see their housing benefit reduced overnight by £500 or £250 a month, starting from today. That’s a huge amount to expect people to find from their other income, but most will have to do that or risk losing their home. For new households, the cap will be introduced in phases starting with local authorities with the fewest affected households and finishing with those with the most (such as Birmingham) in February 2017.
It’s a public policy reform that has the potential to help the Government to solve two major policy headaches – improving access to affordable childcare for working parents and helping schools cut the attainment gap between richer and poorer children – but the number of extended schools remains inadequate.
This year, we'll again be at the Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative party conferences, holding fringe events to stimulate discussion of child poverty and it's solutions in the parties. The events will debate what reforms are needed to stop the projected 50% increase in child poverty by the next election in 2020. Is universal credit still fit for purpose? What would a robust life chances strategy look like? And an effective childcare strategy? How can we ensure that social security protects the vulnerable while enabling parents to get better off by earning more?
Our Legal Officer Mike Spencer has headed off to a secondment at the Supreme Court, so we caught up with him before he went on the highs and lows of fighting CPAG’s legal battles on behalf of children in poverty.
Yesterday we published a new report with Z2K, which shows the impact that abolishing council tax benefit has had on low income Londoners. Still too poor to pay: three years of localised council tax support in London reveals that localising council tax support has led to increasing numbers of households receiving court summonses, falling into council tax arrears and being referred to bailiffs.
This autumn the benefit cap will be cut, squeezing low-income families even further and pushing more people into poverty. The Welfare Reform & Work Act 2016 lowers the cap to £23,000 per annum for families (or £15,410 for single claimants) in London and £20,000 for families (or £13,400 for single claimants) outside of London. There are currently 3.9 million children living in poverty. Projections from the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that child poverty could rise by 50 per cent by 2020. Tightening the cap and taking away more support from low-income households will have a devastating effect on families and children.