New figures show real impact of benefit cuts on Renfrewshire residents
New figures reveal that Renfrewshire residents are struggling to cope with the UK Government’s benefit cuts, with more than 600 local people receiving help from local food banks since the ‘Bedroom Tax’ was introduced in April.
And Discretionary Housing Payment awards – a crucial fund to help residents who are struggling to meet their housing costs – are also up for April, May and June compared to the same time last year.
The council has given out a total of 1,094 Crisis Grants since April 1 and an additional 800 council households have fallen into rent arrears since the Under Occupancy Rule was introduced.
Councillor Mike Holmes, Renfrewshire Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “We warned the UK Government when their ‘Bedroom Tax’ was looming that many communities were already pushed to breaking point and would struggle to cope.
“Three months on and we can now see the harsh reality. More people need help from food banks to feed their families, more people are struggling to meet their housing costs, and more people are falling into arrears.
“Figures from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research say that as part of the overall programme of benefit cuts Renfrewshire will eventually lose £60m a year. That’s a staggering amount of money.
“We’re doing all we can to support our hard-pressed residents through these difficult cuts and dealing with welfare reform is one of this council’s top priorities.
“We will not evict our tenants who fall into arrears as a direct result of the ‘bedroom tax’ as long as they continue to work with us. And on top of that our tenants can also now apply to have their homes reclassified to stop them being penalised by the ‘bedroom tax’ for having a bedroom that can’t be used because of disability or medical reasons.
“We’re also increasing capacity of our Customer Contact Centre to cope with residents increased need for advice. And we’ve established a 45-strong team to help alleviate the problems caused by the changes to housing benefit, disability living allowance, debt and legal problems and employability issues.
“On top of that we will continue with our £4.5m Invest in Renfrewshire programme to boost our economy and create job opportunities for local people.”
The number of council tenants facing the Under Occupancy Rule at the end of March who were in rent arrears was 587. The number of tenants affected by Under Occupancy and in arrears has risen to 1,387 at the end of June. So 800 of our tenants affected by ‘bedroom tax’ have fallen into arrears since the start of April.
The council gave out 613 Discretionary Housing Payments during April, May and June 2013, compared to 155 for the same period in 2012.
Councillor Holmes added: “Unfortunately we’re still facing years of UK Government benefit cuts. It plans to slash its spend on DLA by 20%; will continue with its freeze on Child Benefit; will replace six key benefits with a new benefit called Universal Credit; and will continue to move claimants off Incapacity Benefit onto the new Employment Support Allowance – so we may only be seeing a glimpse of what’s to come in terms of people needing help.
“The reality for Renfrewshire is that as local people continue to struggle, the Government is taking £60m out of the pockets of the area’s poorest families and that, quite frankly, is shameful.
“I’d urge anyone who is worried about the benefit changes and struggling to cope to please call our help line for support.”
The Scottish Government contribution to Renfrewshire’s DHP fund for 2012/13 was £251,714. Renfrewshire council Council topped up the fund by £150,000.
For more information on benefit changes, including advice and support, please call our benefit change helpline on 0300 300 0288 or visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/