Alex blasts local consequences of ill-considered welfare reforms

The Government’s welfare reforms and cuts to funding for local authorities are having a disastrous impact on the ability of hard working councils around the country to help the vulnerable and those most in need, including many on Teesside, Alex Cunningham has said.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been forced to contact local authorities regarding Housing Benefit and the regulations relating to the Bedroom Tax following legislative mistakes that have resulted in the Department improperly applying the penalty to some claimants.

But despite belated efforts to correct these errors, the MP for Stockton North has highlighted that it is local authorities that are being left to deal with the consequences of the Tory-led Coalition’s policies – and without the necessary funding.

Alex said:

“The Government has claimed that Discretionary Housing Payments will help make up the shortfall between rent and Housing Benefit for those being penalised by the Bedroom Tax, but there have been repeated warnings that the funding available will be woefully inadequate.

“And these findings are being borne out on the ground, affecting thousands of vulnerable individuals and families.  Over 2,100 households across the Stockton Borough are facing reductions in benefit due to new rules on under-occupation, many of whom are powerless to move to alternative smaller homes due to insufficient alternative housing supply.

“While this equates to a reduction in benefits worth around £1.9 million, Stockton Borough Council has only been granted a discretionary housing fund of £395,000.  The Government have left the Council to determine the criteria for whom to help – and if too many people fall into that category, it is the Council who have to pick up any extra cost.  But this is nigh on impossible in light of the extensive funding cutbacks faced by local authorities.

“These restrictions mean that criteria are being set that exclude vulnerable households, genuinely suffering as a result of welfare reforms and in need of support, from meeting eligibility criteria.  And to make matter worse still, funding for the Council’s Back on Track social fund is only available for the next financial year.

“It is clear that the Government’s costings do not take account of the full scale of the potential impacts and have not included the additional administrative costs of make these changes, all of which means those in need support suffer more.”