Sunday, 17 March 2013

£26,000-a-year benefit families snub council help

MORE than 45 Solihull families who get over £26,000 a year in benefits have spurned council offers of help about a forthcoming cap on payments, it has been revealed.

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Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council said it had had “little success” in communicating with the families – mostly of four or more children - ahead of major benefit reforms.

The Government will introduce a £26,000 cap on a wide range of benefits in the borough in June and throughout the UK by September.

It says the cap will uphold the principle that no out of work family should get more than the average household income.

But a council report said: “We have been trying to speak to each of these families since November 2012 with little success.

“So far we have tried to visit each person at home, sent two letters and we are now trying to make contact via telephone.

“So far only two customers have returned our contact, one of which we are able to support and the other who has since cancelled their benefit. We will continue to try and make contact.”

It said it will set aside £50,000 from a £294,000 Government grant to help with the impact of wider benefit reforms to help the families get work.

Housing benefit is expected to make up the majority of the £26,000 cap (see details of the cap here).

The council has also revealed about one in ten of its tenants – managed by Solihull Community Housing – will lose cash under “bedroom tax” reforms.

Some 790 will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit – which usually covers the whole rent – because the Government has deemed they have one spare bedroom.

A further 196 will lose 25 per cent of their housing benefit because they are classed as having two or more spare bedrooms. The council has 10,722 homes.

A further 400 borough tenants managed by other housing associations will be affected.

The Government has said the changes will save cash and free up needed homes for families by pressuring those with “spare” rooms to downsize.

But critics said there are not enough homes to move to.

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