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Church agency warns of benefit cap threat to vulnerable families

By on Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith

As the Government begins to roll out the household benefit cap across Britain, Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), the social action agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, has warned that the changes risk leaving “vulnerable families unable to meet the very basic costs of living and increase child poverty”.

The household benefit cap has already been implemented in the London boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Enfield and Haringey but on Monday the Department of Work and Pensions, led by minister Iain Duncan-Smith, began the first phase of its nationwide roll out.

Under the changes, benefits for couples or lone parent households will be capped at £500 per week and benefits for single person households will be capped at £350 per week.

CSAN’s chief executive, Helen O’Brien said: “As the first phase in the roll out of the household benefit cap begins, Catholic charities are bracing themselves for rising demand for their services.

“The household benefit cap has been set at an arbitrary level taking no account of family size or geographical variations in living costs. We are extremely concerned about the disproportionate impact the cap is likely to have on larger households and those living in London. We fear that the cap may leave vulnerable families unable to meet the very basic costs of living and increase child poverty.

“Already Catholic charities are reporting more families struggling to pay their rent, foregoing meals and essential utilities. Many dioceses and Catholic charities are expanding foodbank and nightstop services and are proactively exploring ways they can reach out to those affected.”

CSAN has consistently voiced its concerns about the introduction of the household benefit cap in its current form. CSAN previously called for child benefit to be excluded from the plans and for regional variations in the cap.