Tens of thousands of poor households are denied additional support to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, after being hit by the government’s benefit ceiling.
The number of low-income households hit by the ceiling in London has doubled since the start of the crisis, according to analysis by the Observer. Households already at the ceiling when the crisis hit missed £ 320 a month in additional support. For private tenants with children, it is £ 532 per month. 22,000 additional households are now at the ceiling and are on average £ 185 less per month.
This has led to an outcry over the fact that there is now a two-tier system, in which workers on government leave have access to far more support than some of those on welfare. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, requests that the ceiling be increased during the pandemic.
The government has introduced new aid for those who apply for universal credit, but the ceiling has not been increased or suspended.
New research by Policy in Practice, a city council-commissioned consultancy, found that 44,300 households were hit by the ceiling in April. This could reach 63,700 by next year as more people are forced to file a claim.
Khan said, “This will make families unable to pay their rent and other essential bills, and ultimately at risk of becoming homeless.”
Deven Ghelani, Director of Policy in Practice, said: “With people unemployed due to coronavirus and trapped by high housing costs, it makes sense to suspend it [the benefit cap] at least for the duration of this crisis. “
Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation think tank, said: “We rightly pay wages of up to £ 2,500 a month when someone’s employer puts them in touch, but only one person out of work has support capped at less than half that. “
A DWP spokesperson said, “We are doing everything in our power to ensure that people are supported during these unprecedented times, including by injecting £ 6.5 billion into the welfare system, by deploying income protection plans, mortgage leave and additional support for tenants.
“About 2.5 million households with universal credit will immediately benefit from the £ 20 weekly increase in the standard allowance.”