Benefit cap ‘forces victims of domestic violence to stay with their abuser’
Women taking part in a pilot of the government's benefit cap have been forced to stay with violent partners and even driven to attempt suicide, researchers have found.
A report by the Chartered Institute of Housing found several reports of women opting to stay with violent partners in order to avoid the benefit cap.
It added: "Stress and sleeplessness were common but some people were clinically depressed and one reported that she had made attempts to take her life."
The cap, which limits household benefits to around £500 a week, had simply shunted costs onto local authorities, social services and the NHS, according to the report.
Researchers in Haringey found it had caused an "exacerbation of mental health problems, women left unable to flee abusive partners [and] children in danger of being taken into care".
The cap has also failed to shift people back into work.
Of the 747 households affected by the cap in Haringey, just ten per cent moved back into work, while only one per cent had managed to increase their hours sufficiently to avoid the cap.
Around half of these "would have sought work anyway", according to researchers.
Over half of the households expected to be affected by the cap live in London, with 20 of the worst affected local authorities also in the capital.
The Leader of Haringey council said the benefit cap had failed to meet its aims.
"This research shows that the benefit cap has failed in its main objectives. Only a few households have been able to get back into work and, while the government may be making some savings, the real costs are just being passed to local councils already under enormous financial pressure," councillor Claire Kober said.
The cap led to savings of around £60,000 a week to the benefit bill in Haringey.
However, the local council were forced to pay a similar amount in discretionary payments to help affected households pay their rent.
The cap has not led to a significant "exodus" of families so far, although this could change when this discretionary funding runs out.
The Department for Work and Pensions today described the research as "limited" and said many people had already gone back into work because of the threat of a cap.
"This research relies on early and limited data from a single council and completely ignores the fact Jobcentre Plus has helped 16,500 claimants nationally into work who were potentially affected by the benefit cap," a spokesperson said.
"We do not recognise this report as providing a sound or reliable picture of the reform," they added.