The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has urged the Government to use the brief extension of the evictions ban to scrap the benefit cap, which is pushing thousands of families into rent arrears and debt.

The benefit cap, which limits the total amount of money that can be received through benefits, was introduced in 2013. The latest statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal that 1,644 households in Tower Hamlets had their benefits capped at May 2020, one of the highest rates across the whole country. There has been a shocking 93% rise in households nationally hit by the benefit cap from February to May this year.

Mayor Biggs has said that the benefit cap is making it even harder for families to pay their rent and warns that it is fuelling the looming evictions crisis which will hit once the evictions ban is lifted on the 20th of September, given the number of private renters who have fallen into arrears during the pandemic.

Recent research from housing charity Shelter revealed that 230,000 private renters have fallen into arrears since the start of the pandemic, meaning they could lose their homes when the evictions ban ends.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said: “The benefit cap severely limits the amount of support that people can receive and it has a huge impact on many families in Tower Hamlets.

“Many more people are relying on benefits now because of the economic impact of Covid-19, and the benefit cap is only exacerbating what is already a really difficult time for many people and there’s no doubt that it’s making it much harder for people to pay their rent.

“We face a wave of homelessness across the country unless the Government scraps the cap, and extends the evictions ban. Time is running out.”

Councillor Sirajul Islam, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “The warnings from local councils and housing charities about what will happen at the end of the evictions ban should ring alarm bells for ministers. The Government’s decision to extend the evictions ban by a month was welcome, but extending the ban without scrapping the benefit cap simply postponed the inevitable. They must use the extension wisely and end the cap.”

Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, Cabinet Member for Planning and Social Inclusion, said: “The benefit cap is deeply unfair and is hurting some of the most vulnerable people in this country. As a council we have a range of tackling poverty measures designed to help support people in the borough, and we see so many residents who have been hit hard by the benefit cap. With the huge increases in the number of people claiming benefits and now suffering from the benefit cap, the end of the evictions ban is going to be devastating for many families.”

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