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1 November 2016, 05:33
A new cap on overall benefits could have a severe impact on almost 20,000 of the country's most vulnerable children, a housing organisation has warned.
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) said the new cap could price families out of housing and risk increasing homelessness.
The lower overall benefit cap comes into effect from November 7 and will reduce the limit from £26,000 to £20,000 in Scotland and other parts of the UK outside London.
According to new CIH Scotland research, the cap will hit 6,700 families across the social rented and private rented sectors north of the border, affecting almost 20,000 children in these households.
CIH Scotland executive director Annie Mauger said the new cap could put many families at serious risk of losing their homes and render housing in significant parts of the country unaffordable for those affected.
She said: "The results of our research are extremely worrying. It shows that the reduction in total benefits is going to hit some of the most vulnerable families of all sizes across Scotland and the UK as a whole.
"These families will lose out when the cap comes into effect from November 7. In many cases, they will immediately face a substantial gap between their rent and the help they receive to pay for their housing.
"Worryingly, our analysis shows many families could be one redundancy or a period of ill health away from being in this situation.
"We are seriously concerned that this could have a severe impact on these families, make housing in large sections of the country unaffordable and risk worsening what is already a growing homelessness problem.''
She added: "This is a measure which seriously risks undermining the UK Government's commitment to make society fairer for families, and we suggest that they look at this urgently.''
The vast majority of families affected are two and three-child families.
Social security minister Jeane Freeman said: "The Scottish Government has repeatedly made clear our serious concerns about the six-fold increase in the number of households affected by the UK Government's benefit cap.
"This is yet another cut from the UK Government which will have the hardest effect on low-income families with children.
"The cumulative impact of changes to benefits and tax credits over the last few years is a considerable burden on those least able to afford it and continues to push more and more people into poverty at the very time we want to lift people out of poverty.
"We will continue to express our considerable concerns clear to the UK Government.''