CONDEM GOVERNMENT HORROR FOR SALFORD
The words `shock' and `horror' don't even begin to describe the affect of the ConDem Government's Welfare Reforms on the people of Salford. A Salford Council report, seen by the Salford Star, lists every change in benefits proposed by the new Welfare Reform Act and what it will mean for the city's most vulnerable people.
"This is a radical change in social security provision estimated to mean £28 million a year and over 1,000 jobs being lost to the Salford economy" the report begins "The measures will have a considerable impact for people on low incomes, families with children especially lone parents, those with long-term ill-health and people with disabilities…"
The `reforms' begin in 2013, to be concluded by 2017, and are on top of £94million already slashed from Salford Council's budget between the years 2011-2015. The nightmare scenario is set to decimate the city and its most vulnerable citizens…
People With Ill Health…5000 set to lose benefits
As a result of the highly criticised and flawed re-assessments of people on Incapacity Benefit which is currently kicking 37% of claimants off the scheme, the Council report states that, "around 5,000 are set to lose Incapacity Benefit in Salford" worth £10.6 million. This, the report adds, will take £13.3million out of the local economy and cost 500 jobs.
Children and Families – families set to lose £1,400 for each disabled child.
As a result of the new Universal Credit which comes in next year, Save The Children estimates that families with disabled children will lose £1,400 a year for each disabled child.
Meanwhile the poorest parents in the city will lose up to £68 per week and child poverty, already staggeringly high in Salford (see here), is set to increase. Community Care grants and Crisis Loans from the dole will be abolished with a sum, (estimated at £1million) transferred to Salford Council to cover it all but no legal obligation to actually help people. The Council report predicts an "increased demand for second hand furniture, clothing etc"…
The complex changes being brought in by the Government, the report states, "will worsen the economic circumstances of the poorest families in the City and will undermine the City Council's efforts to combat Child Poverty".
Housing – increase in arrears, debt and loan sharks…
From 2013, "There is a systematic reduction in the help available to people on low incomes to meet the rent payable on their homes" states the report. The limits on the number of rooms allowable and the cutting of help available to single people aged under 35 will be extended to social housing tenants and "will have major implications for Salix, City West and other social landlords where tenant receive less help due to 'under-occupying' and the implications for future lettings policy".
"The upshot" the report concludes "will be a growing number of people unable to afford their rent and this will almost certainly manifest itself in increased rent arrears, increased possession action, increased presentations of homelessness, a demand for cheaper rented accommodation leading to increased pressure on lower-cost areas of the City and greater reliance on high interest lenders…"
Council Tax Benefits – 19,000 in Salford to pay more
The report reveals a "nightmare" for the Council, with "unprecedented levels of Council Tax arrears". The Welfare Reform Act will lead to the abolition of Council Tax Benefit for people of working age, and will be replaced by a scheme with 10% less funding.
"19,000 households in Salford are set to be affected" states the report "of whom the majority will be expected to pay more (or pay for the first time) from an income that will not increase and may well be decreased."
Disabled – Over 2000 Salford people will lose £8million a year between them.
"The replacement of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) involves the removal of the lowest level care component and a medical test designed to remove 20% currently those currently entitled" states the report "This is set to affect nearly 11,000 disabled people in Salford of which over 2,000 are set to lose over £8 million a year."
The knock-on affect, the report estimates, will a loss of £10million to the local economy and nearly 400 jobs.
Universal Credit – complex and set to hit lone parents and disabled.
Set to be introduced in October 2013, Universal Credit will be claimed online and replace Income Support, Income Based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit with one `credit'.
The Council report states that the "Initial impact on claimants is likely to be confusion about the assessment and level of entitlement. This is already an issue with the current benefits system and whilst this is simpler in being a single benefit, the structure and calculations that lie behind it are more complex". The Institute of Fiscal Studies calculates that 1.4 million working-age families nationally will lose financially, especially lone parents, while "rates for disability will less generous than at present".
Increased Poverty In Salford
The Salford Council report concludes that "The combined effect of these proposals will be to reduce the incomes of many vulnerable groups within the City particularly families with children, people with disabilities, long-term ill health and those unable to find work".
It adds "This will take place at the same time as evidence indicates that the most vulnerable in the community are facing real cuts to their income; increased costs of daily living and the public services upon which many rely are under pressure."
The result, according to the report, will be "increased indebtedness; increased arrears of rent and Council Tax; increased use of high interest lenders and loan sharks; increased homelessness presentations and homes at risk of possession; fewer people with contents insurance; fewer people with savings; higher levels of depression and mental health problems."
The cuts to people's Incapacity Benefit, Employment Support Allowance, Council Tax and Disability Living Allowance alone will almost destroy the local economy, with Salford Council estimating £28million a year being taken from
the city and its people, with over 1000 jobs lost.
The report also concludes that "There will be increased demand for advice and support services and its role will be critical to building personal financial resilience, assisting the prevention of homelessness, combating child poverty, and linking residents to training and work opportunities. This will be an important factor to consider in the current review of welfare rights and debt advice services…"
Salford Council is proposing to cut almost £400,000 from its Welfare Rights and Debt Advice service – despite it having 70% success rate in appealing against people being kicked off disability benefits and just when the service is needed most.
Salford people should be worried – very worried indeed…