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More people 'falling through austerity net'
MORE people than ever are “slipping through the net” in York as they struggle to deal with the Government’s austerity drive, it has been claimed.
York Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) said it has seen a marked increase in contact from the under-35s struggling to cover private rental costs as a result of benefit reforms and from people new to the benefit system – due to redundancy or ill-health – struggling to access help.
Peter Finlay, the project leader for family money advice at York CAB, said changes to the benefit system are preventing some in York from “keeping a roof over their heads”.
He said: “York is seen as quite affluent and a lot of that is down to the kind of social housing you get. The council estates are very well maintained.
‘‘When you get in through the front door you find levels of poverty.
“In our experience people can get themselves into quite a bit of difficulty because they are not familiar with the benefit system and what they are entitled to.
“It’s these people who can fall through the net.
“The measures that are being taken, the changes that are being made, are preventing some people from keeping a roof over their heads.
“These changes have been introduced recently, people have entered into rental agreements in the private sector and their housing housing benefit has been slashed. Those are the people who are finding it difficult and bewildering.”
Mr Finlay said York CAB is working to give advice in advance of a raft of benefit changes due for 2013.
A report released by the new Economics Foundation (NEF) this week, which has tracked how the cuts have hit some of the most deprived wards in England, has said the vulnerable and those with genuine needs are not being protected from the cuts.
Joe Penny, a co-author of the report, said about benefit reductions alongside the soaring cost of bills: “Society is getting to the point where anyone can have a crisis which pushes them down a spiral so precipitous that it is almost impossible to recover.”
Changes to housing benefit include the introduction of the local housing allowance which groups together York and Selby, meaning housing benefit will only cover the lowest 30 per cent of rental prices appropriate to family size.
An additional change means single people under 35, can only claim rent of £281 a month, which can prove a challenge in York where private rented property is in high demand, and landlords can make more money through renting to students, a spokesman for York CAB said.
Westfield councillor and disabilities campainer Lynn Jefferies said: “I see evidence that people in York are struggling more than they have in the past.
‘‘For those people who lost their entitlement to care support, there’s a danger of them falling into poverty if they have not already.”