Benefit cutbacks could put more people on the streets

Reporter:

Hayley Collins

HOMELESSNESS and poverty is expected to soar in Flintshire as millions of pounds is wiped from benefits handouts, it has been claimed.

A report compiled by Flintshire Council’s housing department estimates that by 2014/15 the national government welfare reforms will result in Flintshire residents losing benefit income of about £6.5million per year.

A total of 2,000 households face their local housing allowance (LHA) being cut while a further 2,600 residents will lose their entitlement to sickness related benefits.

Cllr Carol Ellis, executive member for social services, says she has “serious concerns” in relation to child benefit cuts which she says will lead to child poverty as well as the impact on the sick and vulnerable.

She said: “Young people will also be hit especially hard as their housing benefit will be drastically cut – this surely will create an increase in homelessness.

“It’s a shame that as always when it comes to cuts, the most vulnerable are hit.”

Those losing sickness related benefits will be transferred to jobseekers allowance, but fears are growing for those who genuinely cannot work.

Connah’s Quay councillor Bernie Attridge said: “I am a great believer that if you can work you should work, but we are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in our society and it’s an absolute disgrace they are taking an axe to these people’s benefits.”

Cllr Attridge, who has the highest amount of social housing stock in his ward, says homelessness will rocket.

“It’s not a case of this might happen – it will happen,” he said.

The Government is planning to introduce vigorous means testing to ensure correct benefits are paid, but the report states that “errors will become a regular occurrence”.

It says: “Some vulnerable people who lose their sickness and or disability benefit will not be able to replace their lost benefit income with earned income due to their poor health.”

Cllr Helen Brown, executive member for housing, added: “There are many concerns that people could be reduced into poverty when claims go wrong.

“It is no good pretending this will solve all of the benefits issues - it will not. The reform has not been thought through and only time will tell.”

Officers at the council are now working with private landlords in a bid to discuss incentives to introduce rent reductions.

Flintshire’s homeless and benefits advice services are also joining forces to offer specialist advice to those affected.

A workshop for housing and social services members will take place to discuss how to help residents.

See full story in the Leader

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