The future of welfare reform in ELL boroughs: how will the changes affect the average claimant household

Hackney resident. Pic Source: Maya Oppenheim

Hackney resident. Pic Source: Maya Oppenheim

On the first birthday of the Welfare Reform Bill, there is very little to cheer about for the nearly 200,00 benefit claimants across EastLondonLines’ four boroughs.

In April last year, the coalition government introduced a piece of legislation which would change the lives of many of our ELL residents.

The reforms brought in by Iain Duncan-Smith on April 1 2013 have seen sweeping changes to the welfare system.

Nearly ten thousand households have been hit with housing allowance deductions under the bedroom tax laws and more and more have had to live without social support as a result of the tougher benefit sanction scheme.

And the social impacts have been evident too. With less money for those who claim benefits, more people are struggling to pay their rent and the use of food banks has tripled since the year before.

The past twelve months have been tough for ELL benefit claimants, but the future looks even bleaker.

All four of ELL’s boroughs are in the top 10 per cent of English local authorities which will be most impacted by the welfare reforms in 2015 and 2016.

A study by the Local Government Association has shown that households in the ELL boroughs will be the hardest hit in the UK.

The report, compiled by the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, on behalf of the LGA, estimated the financial impact that welfare reforms would have on average households across England’s 325 local authorities.

In the study, Tower Hamlets was placed 2nd in the list, Hackney was placed sixth, followed by Lewisham in 16th place and Croydon in 27th, respectively.

The findings predicted that the average household in England would lose £1,695 in 2015/2016; however in the four ELL boroughs, this was closer to £2,000.

Reacting to the findings, Tony Wilson, the co-author of the report, said:

“Our analysis shows that East London authorities are being particularly hard hit by welfare reforms.  They face a triple whammy of often low wages, high rents and high unemployment.”

“As a result they are particularly affected by cuts to tax credits, Housing Benefit and support for those out of work. Local areas need to better understand the impacts of reforms, and need to be supported to help their residents deal with these changes,“ Wilson added.

In light of the report, a number of organisations have commented on the findings.

Phillip Connolly, the Policy and Communications Manager for Disability Rights UK, said: “These are shocking figures and devastating in its impact for people already on low incomes. We call on the Chancellor to rethink his recent commitment to make cuts of a further £12 billion in welfare spending from 2015.”

DEMOS, a leading Social Policy organisation also commented on the report. Chief Executive Claudia Wood said: “The CESI work once again demonstrates that the impact of multiple changes to benefits are falling on the same families over and over, with life-changing results. The worst affected families will mainly be in London where housing costs are very high and Housing Benefit cuts are therefore most extreme – nonetheless these figures are shocking.”

What’s more Wood insisted that: “The government’s refusal to carry out such important cumulative assessments on the grounds they are too difficult is becoming less feasible as more and more organizations, demonstrate such analysis is possible.”

The Child Poverty Action Group also warned of the potential damage the welfare reforms would cause to children living in poverty.

Megan Jarvie, their London Campaign Coordinator, said: “London already has some of the highest child poverty rates in the country so the disproportionate impact of cuts to key benefits should worry anyone who cares about what kind of city we want to live in or about protecting the childhoods and life chances of the city’s children.”

Jarvie added: “Families tell us that changes to the benefits system are making them increasingly anxious about whether they can afford to pay their rent or even live in London at all.  Given the financial hardship that households in east London will be facing, councils need to act now.”

To Read ELL’s other stories from Welfare Reform Week click below:

Welfare Reform Week: ELL begins week investigating the impacts of the reforms in our boroughs one year on

Bedroom taxed households pass the 10,000 mark

The rise of the Foodbank: 6,500 EastLondonLines residents forced to visit foodbanks in last eight months

Sanctions on the increase: Number of claimants losing JSA benefit reaches record levels across ELL boroughs

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