Alex Cunningham, Member of Parliament for Stockton North, has expressed his concern at figures released recently by Stockton and District Advice and Information Services (SDAIS) which reveal an alarming upward trend in requests for advice on issues ranging from welfare benefits to immigration issues. In total, the number of new enquiries in 2011-12 is 12% higher than a year previously.
Stockton and District Advice and Information Services (SDAIS) provides a confidential and independent advice service for local people. Following the raft of Government cuts, whose impact is already having a disproportionate impact on the area, 37% of enquiries made to SDAIS in 2011-12 were related to welfare benefits. This highlights the extent to which the most vulnerable in society are bearing the brunt of Tory-led cutbacks.
With unemployment having reached 8.4% in 2011, and with long-term unemployment continuing to rise, enquiries regarding Jobseekers Allowance rose by 26% in 2011-12 compared to 2010-11. Even more alarmingly, enquiries concerning the controversial Employment & Support Allowance were up 125% as rollout of the new benefit continues.
With changes to Housing Benefit scheduled for implementation from April 2013, which will see those classed as over-occupying their property hit with a “bedroom tax”, enquiries in this area increased by 16%.
“As the pace of cutbacks in Government spending accelerates, we are seeing significant reductions in public services and vast cuts made to the welfare system. As a result, many Stockton North constituents are being left confused and are being put at risk of not receiving the support to which they are entitled. I have no doubt that such Tory/LibDem policies will continue to prove costly to those least able to afford it.
“While the number of enquiries has spiralled in the past year, I applaud the fantastic work undertaken by SDAIS to ensure the continued provision of accurate and practical advice. As Government cuts continue to bite, I will continue to work closely with SDAIS to ensure that advice continues to be available to those who need it.”