Welfare Benefits – Banardo’s say it’s no ‘Safety Net’

The benefits system is “no longer providing an adequate safety net” for the poorest families, with “devastating effects” for vulnerable youngsters, a children’s charity is warning.

In a report on recent changes to the welfare system, Banardo’s said an increasing number of families were being forced to rely on food banks and faced eviction as a result of benefits cuts.

The charity is calling for a review of the impact of welfare reform on poor families, with a relaxation of the “bedroom tax” listed as a minimum requirement.

Banardo'sIn a survey of 138 0f its centres nationwide, 60 per cent said welfare changes introduced by both the Coalition and the previous Labour governments, were having a “wholly negative” impact on the families and young people reliant on their services.

Among these, 64 per cent said they had seen a rise in the use of food banks among users of their services, while 47 per cent reported a rise in rent arrears and 20 per cent an increased threat of eviction.

“Many of our services are concerned that the net impact of welfare changes is that the system no longer provides an adequate safety net for “working age families” the report said. “the evidence in this report shows how cutting families’ incomes can have a devastating effect on vulnerable children and young people.”

Benefit sanctions, which can see welfare payments stopped for up to three years if claimants fail to abide by a wide variety of terms were the “biggest concerns”. The report said some families were being left with little or no income as a result of being sanctioned, and were turning to “very risky means” to support themselves.

The report cited the case of one family in the North-West who ended up owing £700 to a local loan shark to cover a £300 loan, after their benefits were stopped for six weeks as a result of one missed Jobcentre appointment.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The benefits system this government inherited was broken, trapping the very people it was meant to help. Our welfare reforms are transforming the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities… We continue to spend £94bn a year on a welfare safety net to support those who are on low incomes or unemployed.”

Banardo’s said the “bedroom tax” – which reduces monthly housing payments if claimants have a spare room – was preventing families living in emergency accommodation from getting a new home because of a shortage of smaller social housing units.

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“Banardo’s reporting this, and, the Chancellor after another £12bn in welfare savings if re-elected!  This government is only concerned with reducing ‘the deficit’, while people in the UK are dying because of it.”

Universal Credit Bill Exceeds £700 Million

The Government’s flagship Universal Credit has come under fresh attack after MPs said “very little progress” had been achieved though £700 million had been spent on the scheme since it began five years ago.

The Public Accounts Committee said that by October last year fewer than 18,000 people were claiming the credit, which replaces six mean-tested benefits, out of about seven million expected in the long term just 0.3% of the eligible population.

Universal CreditsThe committee made a series of recommendations, including urging the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to set out clearly what it has gained from it’s spending so far.

The MPs noted that the DWP had justified spending such large amounts on the promise of future benefits, such as higher employment.

A DWP spokesman said: “Universal Credit” is on track and we are making good progress – almost 64,000 people have made a claim and this time next year UC will be in very Jobcentre in the country. Using existing IT ensures value for money and will save the taxpayer over £2bn.”

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“It would be nice to see the components of the £2bn savings”