By Kaye Wiggins
Poorer families are likely to be forced out of Brixton and the surrounding areas once government welfare reforms take effect in April, according to a report from Lambeth Council.
The report predicts that Lambeth – an area that includes Brixton, Clapham, Stockwell and Streatham – will become a “net exporter” of families when the government brings in a limit on how much housing benefit a family can claim.
It means some families from more expensive parts of London will move to the area in search of cheaper rents, but more will leave Lambeth for places that are cheaper still.
“There is unlikely to be sufficient cheaper accommodation in Lambeth, so families will be forced to move further afield to find an affordable home or rent a smaller property, which will have consequences for overcrowding,” it says.
The report, which councillors are due to discuss on Monday evening, also warns that capping people’s benefits could lead to other social problems, such as an increase in domestic violence, mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse and a growing number of children being taken into care.
It also says the changes, designed to cut government spending, could actually increase costs to the council by up to £6m a year because more people would become dependent on its services, such as temporary accommodation and other housing support.
It says the changes could also lead to more children being taken into care or being assigned social workers, because financial problems could cause family breakdowns. This would place another strain on the council’s finances, the report says.
At the same time, the council would lose income from rents as people in social housing struggled to pay because of the loss of benefits, it says. This could cost the council between £2.5m and £3.5m a year, it estimates.
The Department for Work and Pensions says its changes will “address some of the unfairness that has become inherent in the housing benefit system and in many cases a barrier to helping people into work.” It says the reforms will save nearly £2bn in 2014/15 and will make housing benefit “more fair and better targeted.”
IN FIGURES: Benefit cuts in Lambeth
670: Number of households that will be hit by the cap on benefits, due to begin in April 2013
£94: Average amount of money these households will lose every week
£650: Maximum amount of money these households could lose every week
Figures from Lambeth Council