Police and crime commissioner warns of 'hidden risks' of cut to benefits cap
Wiltshire and Swindon's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Angus Macpherson, has written a blog on the PCC organisation's website warning of the consequences - he calls them 'hidden risks' - of this week's cut to the benefit cap.
His anxieties arose when he attended a meeting of the Wiltshire Domestic Abuse Forum and heard Sarah Cardy of Wiltshire Citizens Advice talking about the effects of the new limit to the cap.
From this week the total amount working-age people can claim if they get housing benefit or universal credit has been cut. The maximum that a couple or single parent can now receive in their total benefits is £384 a week (£20,000 a year) - that is a reduction from £500 a week (or £26,000 a year.)
The commissioner continues: "Sarah explained that, if a household's total benefit exceed the new cap, it will be housing benefit entitlement that will be cut. And that could put people straight into arrears with the rent - and on a slippery slope to eviction."
"The concern is that the impact of the cap will be felt most dramatically by those already at risk of becoming homeless. According to the pressure group, Gingerbread, more than 43,000 single parents nationally with a child under five could be hit by the cap."
The Commissioner then answers the question "Where does the domestic abuse come in?" He explains that as benefits will no longer be paid to particular members of the family (for instance family allowance to the mother) there may be risks: "If in future benefits are paid to a partner who controls the relationship through coercion, then there is the risk of clashes over how that reduced income is spent."
This he says can lead to people sleeping rough, lead to drug and alcohol problems and, in turn, lead to crime: "I have first-hand knowledge of this dismal chain of events through my voluntary work with the Filling Station, which provides soup and support to homeless people in Swindon."
"In addition we could even see some women seeking to make up for the shortfall by becoming sex workers."
Mr Macpherson ends his blog: "I am not saying that capping benefits is necessarily wrong. What concerns me is that the consequences of this massive change do not seem to have been fully anticipated and planned for by some of the agencies which support families and individuals. And that could have an impact on our local communities, and on public services, not least our police."