An estimated 100 families will start losing up to £115 a week in a welfare cut, starting today.
So what is it, how did we get here, and will it affect you?
Tory ministers are lowering the ‘benefit cap’ by up to £6,000 on Monday, November 7.
This is the total amount of benefits a household can receive, and is set to affect the lives of around 300,000 children.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says it’ll stop families getting huge payouts without working - but campaigners say it has some pretty crucial flaws.
Rob Jackson, North Area Director at The Children’s Society, said: “Given the Prime Minister’s talk of making Britain a country that works for everyone, it is deeply disappointing that the Government is pushing ahead with an ongoing agenda of cuts to financial support for children in low-income families. Making savings by cutting help for the poorest children is unnecessary and unfair.
“This is a blunt instrument trying to solve a complex problem. The policy is targeted at workless adults, but the reality is that children are considerably more likely than adults to lose out and there is nothing fair about trying to balance the books on the backs of poor children.
“We fully support efforts to make work pay, but it is not right to achieve this by putting more children on the breadline.”
Here’s a brief lowdown on what’s changing and how to know if it’ll affect you.
What is the benefit cap?
It’s a limit on the total benefits a household can receive.
Ex-Chancellor George Osborne announced it in 2010 at a rate of £26,000 a year.
Between its 2013 rollout and November 2015, 69,900 households lost some housing benefit due to the cap, the House of Commons Library says.
What’s covered by it?
It includes most benefits including Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support and Universal Credit.
It also includes Housing Benefit - which is the benefit that actually gets cut - despite it being paid straight to landlords.
More about this one later.
Who’s covered by it?
Most people aged 16 to 64 who do not work, or work less than 16 hours a week.
It groups together the benefits of a person, their partner , and any dependent children living in the same home under one ‘cap’.
But it doesn’t count the benefits of grown-up children, friends or relatives who live with that person.
In ‘mixed’ households - if either partner works 16 hours or more, both are exempt from the cap.
If one partner’s aged 65 or over, they are exempt but their working-age partner is still included on their own.
Who’s NOT covered by it?
The DWP says anyone who gets the following benefits is exempt from the cap:
- Armed Forces Compensation Scheme
- Armed Forces Independence Payment
- Attendance Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
- Employment and Support Allowance (support component only )
- Industrial Injuries Benefits (and equivalent payments as part of a War Disablement Pension or the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme)
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- Universal Credit payment for ‘limited capability for work and work-related activity’
- War pensions
- War Widow’s or War Widower’s Pension
- Working Tax Credits (available for those who work 16 hours a week or more)
How is it changing?
Last year ex-Chancellor George Osborne announced he would slash the cap.
The new rate will be £20,000 a year (£384.62 a week) for couples and families outside Greater London.
For single people without children living with them, the cap is £13,400 a year (£257.69 a week).
Inside Greater London, the cap is £23,000 a year (£442.31 a week).
For single people without children living with them, the Greater London cap is £15,410 a year (£296.35 a week).
When is this change happening?
Monday, November 7
Why is it controversial?
The cap was meant to end stories of people living on benefits in plush £1m homes.
But it involves Housing Benefit - which people never actually see. It just goes to private landlords reaping a property boom.
So basically, the cap means Britain’s poorest out-of-work people will have to pay more rent out of their own pocket.
And the housing crisis means they aren’t spoilt for places to move to.
Charities and Labour MPs believe the cap will create “social cleansing” from the posher parts of towns and cities, especially London.
Housing associations say it will make much social housing unaffordable to the people who are supposed to live in it.
The Chartered Institute of Housing says 116,000 families will lose up to £115 a week
How many families will be affected?
The Children’s Society estimates that 100 households in Hyndburn will be affected.
Research by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) says 116,000 families nationwide will be hit - both social and private renters - by up to £115 a week.
Most of them are two and three-children families, and 300,000 children are expected to be affected.
The DWP’s own impact assessment guessed 120,000 households would be affected this year (2016/17).
But the DWP claims that figure is now 88,000 and it ‘doesn’t recognise’ the CIH warning.
Where will they be affected?
Up to November 2015, 45 per cent of those hit were in London - where rents are highest.
And that’s going to continue.
The North West is the third-worst hit with 13,000 families affected, the CIH claims.
How do I find out if I’m one of them?
The DWP says it wrote to people affected in May/June and again in September.
The letter didn’t say how much you’re set to lose per week.
Obviously, it didn’t cover people who might come into the cap later.
The DWP has, however, made a benefit cap calculator. Get your documents ready and use it by clicking here .