Huge rise in number of Fife single parent families hit by benefit cap since lockdown
More than 100 extra single-parent families in Fife have seen their benefits capped since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, new figures show.
With a record number of families affected across Great Britain, the Government is facing calls to abolish the cap from charities who say the policy is an "unjust punishment" on poorer households.
Department for Work and Pensions figures show that 301 single-parent families had their benefits capped in Fife during February.
This was a rise of 78% on the number capped in the same period last year, when 169 had either their housing benefit or Universal Credit payment reduced.
Altogether, 491 had their benefits capped in February this year, 266 more than a year previously – with 61% of them single-parent families.
The largest proportion – 255 families – had up to £100 taken off the weekly amount they receive, while around 150 had more than £200 removed.
According to Child Poverty Action Group, which wants the cap abolished, households impacted are losing out on an average £62 a week.
The charity said families were finding it hard to escape the cap due to a continued lack of jobs and unaffordable childcare.
Chief executive Alison Garnham said: "The benefit cap has always been an unjust punishment for families."
And she added: "Thousands more households who have lost jobs to Covid-19 are now subject to the cap even though in the pandemic it is much harder to find ways to replace their lost earnings and become exempt.
"Capped families are losing large amounts of social security support and that is disastrous for the children concerned."
Meanwhile, homeless charity Shelter said a government failure to review the cap had plunged many families into poverty and put them at risk of homelessness.
Chief executive Polly Neate said: "The cap means people whose incomes have been decimated by the pandemic cannot access enough financial support to cover their basic costs, like rent or food for their family."
The DWP said a review of the benefit cap will be carried out at "the appropriate time".
A spokesperson said: "The benefit cap ensures fairness for hard-working taxpaying households and a strong work incentive, while also providing a much-needed safety net of support."