‘Savage cuts an attack on the most vulnerable’

Reporter:

Matt Jones

THOUSANDS of vulnerable Flintshire families are to be hit by “savage” cuts to their benefits.

Details of how the coalition Government’s welfare reforms will affect the county were revealed yesterday by Flintshire Council’s welfare experts who fear some families in rented accommodation could lose their homes as the cuts take effect.

More than than 2,000 households could face cuts to their Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and by 2014/15, £6.5m of benefit income will be lost in the county each year.

The report to councillors said more than 4,000 residents claiming sickness or disability benefit are also expected to be put on Jobseekers Allowance over the next three years.

Councillors reacted angrily to the news during a Flintshire Council housing and overview scrutiny meeting where council bosses said they feared services could be “overwhelmed”.

Cllr Bernie Attridge said: “I can only say these are savage cuts to benefits. It is going to hit the most vulnerable people in our society. It is a retrograde step.

“This is hitting now and it will be hitting within the next 12 months.”

The five-year plan to cut £18billion from the Department of Work and Pensions’ budget was outlined in the comprehensive spending review and emergency budgets announced last year.

Welfare experts say that some families could be hit by a “double tsunami” with cuts to linked benefits, while some will face an “increasingly difficult task” to stay in their homes over the next two years with the estimated average allowance for a one bedroom home set to decrease by £10 a week, £8 for a two bedroom, and just under £6 for a three-bedroom property.

And private landlords, who have been asked by the government to help tenants by reducing rents, have been telling council officers they will not be able to do it.

Fears have also been raised some of those unable to work may be taken off sickness or disability benefits after the introduction of a new stringent test in April.

Paul Neave, of the council’s welfare team, said: “In Flintshire we have seen the number of residents in the last 12 to 18 months challenging adverse decisions implode.

“We will have some people told they are capable of work, but down to the decision being flawed they would not be in the right state of health to find a job.

“They will be some of the most vulnerable people in our county.”

Cllr Ron Hampson said: “There is a lot of concern for residents and the general economy of Flintshire.”

Speaking after the meeting Cllr Helen Brown, executive member for housing, said: “The welfare reform is an absolute disgrace. It has not been thought through how it will affect people. There is going to be a major impact for our residents over the next few years.

“It is an attack on vulnerable people and families.”

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