Benefits are supposed to reflect actual living costs. Of course they are pretty mean – you are not expected to be able to enjoy yourself or even maintain a decent standard of living – but if a household gets large amounts in benefits, this is because there are extra expenses, like lots of children or high local rents. Imposing a cap on the maximum benefit a household can receive doesn’t make sense by any normal logic; but the cap has been imposed by a Tory government intent on turning the welfare system into a punitive mechanism for working-class control.
The benefit cap means that thousands of households across the UK are not getting enough to cover their rent. This is one of the many areas where the Scottish Government has supplied extra money to help fill the gap, but despite this families in North Edinburgh have faced eviction and appalling temporary housing conditions, as the council has provided too little too late. Fearful of seeing this replicated here in Dundee, we wrote to our local housing convenor to find out the situation in the city. Although they don’t have the resources to make the cap go away, it is clear that there is quite a lot of help available. We reproduce the council’s response below so that anyone affected can make use of it.
In the long run we would like to see more investment in council housing and the introduction of rent controls. It has been appalling to witness the growth of private landlordism, which serves as a mechanism for transferring wealth from the poor to the rich, and also – via housing benefit – of subsidising the rich from the public purse. And we will need much greater investment in funding social security – especially after next April, when the Benefit Cap will be extended to include people in social housing, so we will be needing a lot more help from the Scottish Government to mitigate the damage. This is investment in people’s futures, and also in the prevention of social breakdown.
Meanwhile, though, we would urge anyone affected by the Benefit Cap to investigate what help is available from your local council – and if you are not getting what you need, to enlist welfare advisors, MSPs, local press and activists to help you kick up a stink about it.
Here is the Council’s summary of the current situation in Dundee:
Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) are administered by Dundee City Council’s Benefit Delivery Team. In the first instance the team will always look to maximise the individual’s housing benefit before awarding a DHP. The funding for the financial year 2017/18 has come direct from the Scottish Government and in Dundee we received a higher allocation than in previous years. DCC have added £250K to this allocation to help those affected by the UK Government’s Welfare Reforms, including the benefit cap.
In Dundee we currently have around 150 families affected by the cap. At the time of being notified of the cap the Council’s Benefit Delivery Team will always try to make contact with the customer either by telephone, text or letter to complete a DHP application with them.
Information is also shared with the Council’s Advice Services Team to work with these families and assist with an application for Personal Independence Payments where required.
We will always look to assist and work together with those families affected by the cap. To date all those who have applied have had an award made to them and in the majority of cases this has been for the full shortfall.
The council has a limited budget to help these families and we will always try to keep them in their home, however, if their accommodation is over large or overly expensive we would work with them to find more suitable accommodation.