Housing benefit changes ‘will affect 1.71m households’

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Local Government Association (LGA)

Local Government Association (LGA)


12thAugust 2013

Anti-poverty charity, Zacchaeus 2000 (Z2K) today called on local councils implementing the Coalition Government’s Benefit Cap to step up their efforts to protect affected families.

The warning comes on the same day, the Local Government Association (LGA) revealed that less than a quarter of social security recipients will be able to mitigate the impact the benefit cuts by finding work or moving to cheaper accommodation.  The LGA warned that the burden of supporting families affected by the Government’s welfare reforms will fall heavily on local councils. 

Monday (12 August) sees the final phase of implementation after a pilot in four London Boroughs in April and an initial national roll-out to those authorities with fewer than 275 affected households in July.  This final phase will see around 23,000 households affected across just 39 local authority areas, including around 18,000 families in London.  It is thought that these 23,000 households could include as many as 100,000 children.

The numbers affected in this final phase of implementation range from around 2,000 households in the London Borough of Brent, to 1,300 in Ealing, Tower Hamlets and Westminster and 1,100 in Birmingham and Newham.  (A full breakdown of the numbers being capped from Monday 12 August is attached).  None of these 39 authorities is being given the additional funding made available to the four pilot Boroughs (Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey).

In Haringey, the Department for Work & Pensions has contributed an extra £719,939 towards the cost of implementing the Benefit Cap over and above its original Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) funding allocation. Despite this, council officers in Haringey have identified a £2.2 million funding shortfall and councillors are currently thought to be considering topping up the authority’s DHP pot from Reserves. Z2K Chief Executive, Joanna Kennedy said:

“Ministers’ claims that their Household Benefit Cap has been “successfully rolled-out” in the four pilot London Boroughs completely ignore the fact that those councils have had to use Discretionary Housing Payments to help many of those families affected keep up with the rent and avoid arrears, eviction and homelessness.  They also ignore warnings that this DHP funding is being used up at an alarming rate and will run out long before the end of the financial year.”

“Z2K appreciates that the shortfall in Housing Benefit to cover the cost of homeless families in temporary accommodation blows yet another hole in already overstretched local authority budgets.  However, we hope councils will make sure DHPs are made available to families in the private rented sector and housing association tenants, as well as those to whom they have accepted a duty and placed in temporary accommodation.”

“At the same time, we are calling on councillors in these 39 worst affected areas to follow Haringey’s lead and try to identify additional funding locally to top up the Government’s totally inadequate DHP fund.  Z2K’s experiences trying to help those affected by previous cuts to Housing Benefit show that this extra support is the only way to give these 23,000 families a fighting chance of avoiding the vicious cycle of rent arrears, eviction and homelessness.”– ENDS –