Revealed: The numder of families in Newham hit by the benefits cap

A cap on housing benefit is disproportionately hurting single parents, according to data from the De

A cap on housing benefit is disproportionately hurting single parents, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Limits on housing benefit have hit thousands of families over the last six years according to government data.

Charities have warned the cap has added to the misery of families teetering on the poverty line, with the vast majority of those affected having children.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show that 2,749 families had their housing benefits capped in Newham between the introduction of the cap in April 2013 and February this year.

Most of those were single parents, making up 57 per cent of cases.

Benefit capping is pushing people towards homelessness, with single-parent families disproportionately affected, said Greg Beales, the campaign director for housing charity Shelter.

"When your benefits can't cover both rent and food you end up having to choose between the two," he said.

"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."

Most Read

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.

In London, couples with children are limited to an annual income from all benefits of £23,000 a year, £442 each week. The cap is lower outside the capital, at £20,000.

Over the six-year period, 663 households in Newham were docked more than £100 a week. Of those, 166 saw more than £200 a week capped.

Data from February - the most recent available - showed 621 families still had their benefits capped in Newham. That's a 63 per cent increase since the cap was tightened to its current level in November 2016.

The cap has come as the borough suffers one of the highest child poverty rates in London.

In 2015, 38 per cent of Newham's children lived in poverty, the fourth highest in the capital, according to the poverty charity Trust for London.

It's expected that proportion has since grown.

Alison Garnham is chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group.

She said the "arbitrary" limit punished single parents with young children for being unable to work, giving them insufficient financial support to live on.

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."