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.
In 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.”