Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Welsh minister lobbies Freud over welfare reform

The number of people asking for emergency help with their rent has risen by more than 800 per cent in one area of Wales, the Welsh Government has said.

The figures were published as Wales’ communities and tackling poverty minister Huw Lewis met the UK government’s welfare reform minister Lord David Freud today to voice fears that benefit changes would harm vulnerable people and the financial viability of social landlords.

The research by the Welsh Government found claims for discretionary housing paymentshave shot up by 804 per cent in Anglesey, 316 per cent in Conwy, 266 per cent in Newport, 371 per cent in Wrexham and by 65 per cent in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Discretionary housing payments are temporary grants administered by councils to help housing benefit claimants cover shortfalls between their rent and housing benefit. Many councils receive more applications than they can fund and tenants left with a shortfall due to welfare reforms have applied for the payments.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Lewis said: ‘I welcome the opportunity to speak to Lord Freud directly about how the changes to welfare are having a very real impact on the lives of people across Wales.

‘The bedroom tax alone will see 40,000 families worse off and councils are telling us more people than ever before are applying for emergency help to pay the rent.

‘By some estimates the wider welfare changes will take £1 billion out of the Welsh economy and it is the most vulnerable in our society who will feel the squeeze.

‘The Welsh Government is committed to doing all we can to help people through these traumatic changes. However, we are under no illusion that people will suffer hardship and this will put even more pressure on public services in a climate where our budgets are being squeezed like never before.’

Carl Sargeant, the Welsh housing and regeneration minister said: ‘I share Huw Lewis’ concerns about the impact of welfare reform on people and communities across Wales. I am also concerned about the impact on the financial viability of organisations, in particular housing associations, which are key partners of the Welsh Government in delivering much needed new affordable housing.’

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