A report by two of the City`s major charities paints a bleak picture of the local impact of cuts to the benefits system proposed by the coalition government`s Welfare Reform Bill.
Stoke-on-Trent Citizens Advice Bureau and Brighter Futures have cooperated to analyse the impact of the proposed cuts on their users and on the economy of the city as a whole.
The report predicts that cuts to Employment and Support Allowance alone will take at least £13 million each year out of the local economy. They predict that changes to Housing Benefit will lead to increased homelessness and a reduction in the number of private landlords in the area. The report notes that the changes could force vulnerable people to live in dangerous shared accommodation.
”The changes attempt to impose a single “Ëœone size fits all’ solution on towns and cities which are facing starkly different economic challenges. This means that in a city like Stoke on Trent they will represent a false economy and will give at best only short term savings to the public purse. In the medium term they will both reduce our economic activity and add to the burden on public services. Taking swift and decisive action together we can make a difference. This report set-out practical recommendations that I am hopeful will be acted-on as a matter of urgency”.
”In our work we meet thousands of local people who are currently dependent on welfare benefits. In many cases these people could be helped back into work by the regeneration strategies of central and local government. We fully support these efforts to create new local jobs. However, we recognise that they will not create instant jobs and thus we believe that, even for those who can be helped into work, they need a decent benefits system meanwhile. For those who are unable to work due to illness or disability, the proposed changes represent yet another hurdle in lives that are already often impossibly hard”.
”The proposals to change Housing Benefit are designed to solve problems in London and the expensive south east. Housing conditions in those areas are completely different to those in North Staffordshire and the effect of imposing these cuts on Stoke will be to make many people homeless and to make it difficult for organisations like Brighter Futures to offer the individually tailored packages of care that we design to help people cope with the effects of mental health problems, addictions or criminal behaviour”.