The Government’s benefit cap is plunging vulnerable children in the East Midlands into homelessness, a charity report has warned.
Action For Children’s Children and the benefit cap report claims to find deeply concerning effects of the cap and says local authorities are largely unaware of the problems families face.
Families in the East Midlands with vulnerable children who face homelessness are then forced to move far away because the Government’s benefits cap means they can no longer pay the rent.
The ‘Children and the benefit cap’ report also reveals that out of 212 local authorities in England only one in ten know how many of their vulnerable young people on the ‘children in need’ register, are affected by the cap.
Action for Children’s interim chief executive Jacob Tas, said: “It is deeply concerning that vulnerable children could be lost in the upheaval caused by the cuts, and councils don’t even know which of them are affected by the benefit cap and what effect it is having on them.
“Decisions on where families are housed must be made on the basis of what’s best for the children, not where the cheapest B&Bs are.
“Moving schools regularly or in the middle of the academic year and living in temporary housing have negative effects on children’s education, further stacking the odds against children who are already facing difficulties.
“The Government should exclude temporary accommodation from the cap so that councils can keep homeless families in the local area while they help them find new homes.”
Children on the register need extra help for issues such as being at risk of abuse or neglect, or being disabled. An estimated 175,000 children are affected by the cap and 378,600 children are classed as ‘in need’.”
The cap, which came into effect in September 2013, has led to cuts in housing benefit, causing families to lose their homes and move into temporary accommodation.
With the costs of temporary accommodation included in the cap families may be placed in hotels and B&Bs in other parts of the country if their council can’t afford to house them locally.
The number of families in temporary accommodation outside their home area has doubled from 5,880 to 11,650 since 2010.
The charity maintains there is little evidence that the relevant Whitehall departments – Education, Work and Pensions, and Communities and Local Government – are working together to protect vulnerable children from the negative effects of the cap.
Action for Children is calling for local authorities to cross reference households that have been capped, with children’s services records of children in need and for them to put in place a protocol for joint working between housing and children’s services.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is asked to exempt temporary accommodation from the benefit cap and to give households the right to appeal Discretionary Housing Payment decisions through an independent tribunal.
The charity is also calling for the DWP to review funding for Discretionary Housing Payments in 2014 with a view to extending additional funding if required and to include the impact on children during a forthcoming review of the benefit cap.