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Debt and homelessness rise in wake of welfare reforms
CHARITIES in York and North Yorkshire say debt and homelessness problems are soaring in the wake of welfare reforms.
Voluntary and community organisations say cuts to housing benefit and council-tax benefit and a benefits cap are already having an impact, even though the biggest changes are still a month away.
In a survey of 180 voluntary and community organisations across the Yorkshire region, including many with branches or based in York, Selby and other parts of North Yorkshire, 95 per cent said they had noticed an increase in anxiety about income among clients.
Eighty-seven per cent said they had seen an increase in debt problems, 82 per cent had seen an increase in inquiries about benefits and 78 per cent believed economic conditions for the voluntary and community sector would deteriorate over the next 12 months.
The survey has been conducted by Involve Yorkshire & Humber, which represents charities across the region, including national organisations with branches in York, such as the Alzheimers Society and the Red Cross, and also local groups such as the York Travellers’ Trust.
A spokeswoman for the Travellers’ Trust said it was receiving a big increase in calls from people worried about benefit changes.
She said there were particular concerns about a new “bedroom tax” – a cut in housing benefit for anyone with a spare room, intended by the Government to encourage people in oversized social housing to move into smaller homes but which may have an unfair impact on parents with a child in, for example, the Armed Forces.
Judy Robinson, chief executive of Involve Yorkshire and The Humber, said: “It is truly frightening that charities are already seeing such increases in homelessness and poverty when the most dramatic benefits changes are yet to come.
“Voluntary and community groups are at the front line of helping those who are struggling to cope and we must listen carefully to what they are saying is happening.”
She said that Involve was conducting more in-depth research into the impacts of welfare reform on communities in Yorkshire and Humber through an Action Trackers initiative, which would collect detailed evidence.