Monday, 25 April 2016

How the reduced Overall Benefit Cap will impact on Brent residents

A report going to Brent Council Scrutiny Committee tomorrow demonstrates how the lowering of the Overall Benefit Cap (OBC) to £23,000 will impact on residents, with a particularly severe impact on single parents and single people.

According to the report the impact  of the cap so far Brent has been lower than initially anticipated, although it has still had significant impacts. Among these, the relocation of families outside of Brent has been high profile, but affects only a minority of OBC cases (22 in 2015/16); there are generally broader factors including the wider welfare reforms (especially Local Housing Allowance caps) and the lack of affordable accommodation in Brent which have impacted on homelessness and the need to rehouse families outside the borough; OBC itself has played a relatively small part in this and the majority of resolved cases have been through employment.
  Lone parents represented over half (53%) of the cases capped and households with dependants accounted for over 77% of all cases. Single claimants were less likely to be capped as they were likely to be living in smaller properties and so entitled to less benefit. In terms of ethnicity, claimants from the black ethnic group were disproportionately impacted by the OBC, relative to their proportion of the overall Housing Benefit  caseload.
  The council currently has just under 3,000 households living in temporary accommodation, the fourth highest in the country, and including over 5,000 children. This includes the use of expensive and unsuitable Bed & Breakfast accommodation, hostel accommodation with shared facilities, and other nightly paid accommodation which is not fully covered by Housing Benefit and is subsidised by the Council at an unsustainable cost.
  Efforts to reduce the number of households in temporary accommodation are made more difficult by the lack of social housing lets and the difficulty and expense of securing affordable private rented sector accommodation at LHA level rents.
  The effect of austerity and public sector cuts generally means that the Council is now less able to take an interventionist approach with affected claimants and the new Welfare Reform Strategy reflects a greater need to work together with partners, with the Council fulfilling more of a strategic and co-ordinating role, though there will still be intervention on a targeted basis towards the most vulnerable claimants; however, there will be a greater expectation on non- vulnerable claimants to take responsibility for their own outcomes (with appropriate signposting). [my emphasis] Finally the Council’s limited discretionary funding will have to stretch further and therefore provide less of a safety net for residents in future

The reduced cap will exacerbate an already difficult situation:
However, the planned lowering of the Cap from Autumn 2016 will present greater challenges to a larger number of claimants; in particular single people will be impacted who will generally not be statutorily homeless if they present to the Council, so there is potential for increased sofa-surfing, street sleeping, mental health and related social issues. The lowering of the cap elsewhere in the country will even make relocating out of London a less viable option.
A comparison of the two charts below demonstrates the impact:

Click on charts to enlarge

 The table below shows the new limits per week.  Greater London rates apply in Brent.

The table below shows the Council's Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) in 2015-16

The Council's DHP budget has been reduced from £4.8m in 2013-14 in 2013-14 to £2.6m in 2015-16 .
The full report can be found HERE

1 comment:

  1. I wonder what it takes to be 'fit for work' for the DWP? Maybe a lack of human decency is a great asset? See Disability News Service report Revealed: DWP’s secret, ‘financially devastating’ proposals for benefits appeals