Shelter and C4 Dispatches just don’t get the benefit cap

Yesterday the Channel 4 Dispatches programme had 30 minutes of prime national television to explain the Tories benefit cap policy.  What a complete pig’s ear they made.

What is worse is that the programme was heavily influenced by research from Shelter who also had a companion piece in the New Statesman here which is full of errors and omissions just as the Dispatches programme was but so so much worse!

Here’s one example of many:

My response to the emphasised text above is this is bullshit.

  • The £20,000 per year cap which happens in 87% of the UK equates to £384.62 pw
  • The £23,000 per year cap in the 13% of the UK who live in London is £442.31 pw
  • The lone parent with 3 children having £2.72 per person per day is £76.16 per week after rent

Hence Shelter is saying that 20% of renters in the UK pay £308.46 per week in rent for a 3 bed property and in London where the cap is £442.31 per week the rent for a 3 bed property is £366.15 per week.

As I said Shelter is talking through its backside with these figures which have no credibility whatsoever.  I can fully accept that private rents in London are well over £300 per week yet ALL private renters in London (whether bedsit, 1 bed, 2 bed, 3 bed etc) who receive housing benefit (LHA) only account for 242,682 in total and there are 4,550,136 housing benefit claimants in the UK.  That (first) figure is just 5.3% of the UK not the 20% Shelter claim.

Statistically 36.1% of all private renters will be in a 3 bed or larger property.  This extrapolates to London at 87,608 private renters paying the £366 per week in rent and is thus just 1.93% of all the UK who will have £2.72 per person per day after rent has been paid – so Shelter has exaggerated this figure by more than ten-fold!

As I say the Shelter research which formed the basis of this Dispatches programme is total and utter bullshit.

Shelter, as regrettably and as per usual, focus on the private rented sector and approach the overall benefit cap from that angle, which is totally the wrong way to look at the policy.  They also focus, again as per usual, on the London, London, Bloody London aspect … which is also an inept focus as even the DWP admit that the swingeing reductions to the OBC level will see more than 4 in every 5 households affected being outside London (London Bloody London!)

The correct way to consider the OBC is how it works which is to

(a) total the amount of social security base benefit (IS, ESA or JSA) plus the amount of Child Tax Credits plus Child Benefit, and then

(b) subtract this total ‘welfare’ from the benefit cap limit to arrive at the maximum amount of housing benefit (HB or LHA) that the household can receive

The lone parent with 3 children to use the Shelter family example gets a maximum of £92.43 in housing benefit if on JSA and a maximum in housing benefit of £63.38 per week if they receive ESA. For the couple with 3 children the figures are £50.68 maximum weekly housing benefit if on JSA and just £21.63 per week if on ESA.

As the lone parent or couple with 3 children qualify for a 3 bed property which in SOCIAL HOUSING has an average £100 per week rent in the regions and £134 per week average in London based on official figures for England in 2015/16 which I have adapted in the tables below:


As you can see this means the lone parent or couple with 3 children cannot afford a 3 bed property anywhere in England in SOCIAL HOUSING never mind the private rented sector.

As such Shelter at the same time chronically overestimate the cost impact and chronically underestimate the numbers of households the OBC affects.

Note too that these official tables show that the average 3 bed PRS rent in the English regions is £173 per week which leaves the 3 child household £211 or so per week and this is not £2.72 per person per day as Shelter claim but £7.54 per person per day based on the lone parent and 3 children.

I make no apologises for destroying this pitiful Shelter analysis and the central use that C4 Dispatches made of it.  If I can demolish Shelters pathetic and risible analysis – and note I have focused on just one aspect there are many more fundamental errors – then the government are let off the hook and can wholly discredit this heap of nonsense … which I remind wholly UNDERESTIMATES the problem of which the biggest aspect is an exponential increase in child homelessness – a point that Shelter fails to mention!

Shelter, an organisation borne out of homelessness fails to mention that the OBC will massively increase homelessness and instead focuses on that ethereal concept called poverty.

Shelter then says

I know many people reading this will be thinking £20,000 a year is a pretty decent sum, and is what many families manage to live on.

Again this is total bullshit.

The lone parent with 3 children if earning £20k per year would also receive a total of £12,910 per year in welfare (£157.87 Tax Credits, £44.31 in HB and £48.10 in Child Benefit) on top of the £16,770 per year they receive in net earnings – for a total of £29,680 per year.  Shelter is comparing chalk with cheese and fails to see those pesky things called FACTS and just accepts the Tory narrative on this.

So this is NOT what many families manage to live on at all Shelter and your research and analysis is unbelievably inept – and note the figures above using the DWP’s own calculator also assume no child care costs and hence no further welfare for them either!

Shelter’s perverse focus on the PRS continues with an example in Sunderland:

Like a single mother with three small children living in Sunderland who recently turned to us for help. Her youngest child is only two and since her partner left, getting back into work is proving difficult for the moment. In spite of living in a modest two-bed home, she’s got to somehow find an extra £180 a month to cover the shortfall in rent created by the cap. She is absolutely terrified her family will become homeless.

Firstly there is no mention that a single parent with 3 children in a 2 bed property is overcrowded and has been for at least two years!

Secondly, the 1P3C household if on ESA would receive just £63 pw in her maximum housing benefit and so the £180 pcm shortfall, which is £41.42 per week, could easily be the same in a 2 bed social housing property in Sunderland.

The former council landlord in Gentoo rents out 2 bed affordable rent properties at £103.34 per week that would give a £176 pcm shortfall so why blame this on the PRS only (when the LHA for a 2 bed in Sunderland is £97.81 per week too and so the social landlord would be charging more and Gentoo would charge £113.11 per week for the 3 bed social housing property she is entitled to and make her monthly shortfall £216 per calendar month and £36 per month higher shortfall and rent make-up than if she was in a private rented sector property!!

Data above from Statistical Data Return SRS landlords give to regulator – ie official figures

Thirdly, why does Shelter NOT mention that a lone parent of a child under three years of age is NOT EXPECTED to go out work as the youngest child is preschool age and that 59% of all benefit-capped households are lone parent ones with children of preschool age as DWP official data reveals?

Far easier to stick with an errant predetermined hypothesis of blame the PRS landlord  rather than do any analysis or consideration or even reporting of fact.

Finally, I could list at least ten aspects and impacts of the overall benefit cap that both Shelter and C4 Dispatches failed to mention.  Dispatches is in large part limited to what it can include in its 26 minutes of airtime and while it missed many aspects it did the same as it did for the bedroom tax expose back in 2014 in trying to fit in too many.  Shelter on the other hand put out written (alleged) research and (alleged) analysis and did not have these time or spatial constraints, which makes their article wholly inexcusable for the numerous omissions and errors and false figures and fundamentally flawed analyses it gives.


Dear Shelter and anyone else who pretends to care,

“… Gentoo would charge £113.11 per week for the 3 bed social housing property she is entitled to and make her monthly shortfall £216 per calendar month and £36 per month higher shortfall and rent make-up than  if she was in a private rented sector property!!

Of course what this means is that IF this private tenant household of a lone parent with 3 children went to Gentoo in Sunderland (or any other social landlord) and one of the 385,000 new tenancies social landlords in England give out each year … she would be REFUSED SOCIAL HOUSING as she will only get £63 per week in HB due to the swingeing 23% cuts to the overall benefit cap level.

Yes refused SOCIAL HOUSING which means the 1948 Welfare State and its promise to house those most in need is gone forever thanks to the overall benefit cap.

Yes it also means that this lone parent and 3 children goes straight to the homeless department as no SRS or PRS landlord will house her and her family due directly to the overall benefit cap (which in this example also prolongs her overcrowding too!)

Yes that does mean the homeless figures are going to rocket and inevitably so yet this massive direct and inevitable impact of the overall benefit cap and the particularly insidious and systemic aspect that the overall benefit cap directly targets children and makes them homeless … was all NOT STATED by Shelter in this article!!!



5 thoughts on “Shelter and C4 Dispatches just don’t get the benefit cap

    1. Depends on context. A day old child counts for housing need in HB terms such as bedroom tax.
      Overcrowding and statutory overcrowding two separate issues and both are housing law contexts not HB ones

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