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WELFARE REFORM ? A TRAIN CRASH HEADING THIS WAY

Posted by David Hughes on November 19, 2012 at 12:15 AM

The growth of Food Banks is a shocking symptom of the Coalition Government’s attack on people low incomes, through their welfare reforms which started last year, and worse to come in April 2013. Whilst we don't have a food bank yet in Hounslow, I know it is only a matter of time, and I know that the Gurdwaras and other places of worship are feeding more people every day. As the Cabinet Member tasked with addressing Hounslow's response to the Welfare Benefit changes, I am having to develop a strategy and find resources to do this. In researching the issue I am really angry at the impact these changes are going to have on the most vulnerable in our communities, for no obvious benefit to the national economy.

The changes don’t even serve the policy aims of deficit reduction and getting people into work that they were supposed to address. Furthermore thy don’t address the real cause of the high benefit bill - low wages and the rising cost of housing - 80% of new housing benefit claimants are in work. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has reported that the new Universal credit will trap people in poverty, as there will be little incentive to work. And the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that the government's plans to cut the annual housing benefit bill by £2.3bn by 2015 will lead to around two million of the poorest households receiving lower benefits. The NAO predicted that within five years 48% of England's 275 local authorities would have more than twice as many benefit claimants as two-bedroom dwellings, the most popular housing stock, available to rent.

 

Those most affected are families where the parents are on a low-wage, disabled adults and children. In outer London the reforms go alongside a collapse in construction of new affordable homes and rising private sector rents.

In Hounslow borough;

- 600 households will be affected by the Universal credit cap of which 400 will lose more than £50 pm

- the Council Tax Support scheme will affect 9,000 local families who will lose around £7 per month.

- 1160 children are in lone parent families that will lose over £50 per week

- at lease £7m will be lost from the local economy from the total of reduced benefit payments

 

And the costs are running away – as the Work Programme scheme has failed, the Government has had to increase spending on Jobseekers allowance and housing benefit by £9bn nationally, and the IT costs have soared by £100m as the changes have bee rushed through before the IT systems can be adapted. Local Councils’ costs are rising too ; In Hounslow:

- £2.5m more than planned will be needed to pay for temporary housing for the increased homeless families

- there will be additional demand for social Services for children in particular

- a new hardship fund will have to be set up to replace the DWP Social Fund

- more welfare benefit and debt advisors will be needed to deal with the rising tide of problems

- we'll need to provide on-line access with human support for those now required to access the benefits system via internet, as all other communication channels are closed down.

The Labour Party front bench are demanding that the Government gets a grip on spending, get people who can back to work, and to address runaway rent levels. Ed Milliband is championing the Living Wage, assessed as the lowest income that enable to the basics in life to be affordable – and Hounslow Council agreed in early October to adopt the London Living Wage for all Council staff and contractors.

 

What we need is a fair benefits system that allows those who cannot work or need extra help, to live in dignity, fair rent levels, massive increase in affordable housing, and jobs for those who can work paid at rates that allow for a decent standard of living.

 

Posted by Ruth Cadbury at Sunday, November 11, 2012


Categories: Labour Party News

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