Government’s welfare reforms could push vulnerable into poverty, warns charity

PEOPLE who become disabled or too ill to work will be pushed into poverty under the Government’s welfare reforms, an Uttlesford charity has warned.

Uttlesford Citizens Advice Bureau is worried that people forced to give up work because of sudden serious illness or disability could be up to 60 PER CENT worse off than people in a similar situation now.

It warns that many are likely to end up deep in debt and hardship despite having paid national insurance contributions for decades that they thought would provide a safety net if they fell ill.

Under the planned changes, contribution-based employment and support allowance – the main benefit paid to people too ill to work – will be time-limited to 12 months for everyone except the most severely disabled, while the waiting period for the personal independence payment paid to help people meet the extra costs of disability will double to six months.

Uttlesford CAB manager Kate Robson said: “People who are suddenly faced with prolonged time off work – because, for example, they have a diagnosis of cancer and need immediate treatment, or have a stroke or a serious accident – often suffer an unexpected and very dramatic drop in income, leading to serious financial difficulties.

“We already see hundreds of disabled people who struggle to get by on benefits, so it’s really worrying to think that if these changes go ahead, they will push many more people into significant hardship at a time when they most need support.”

The CAB has written to MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, who passed on its concerns to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, but no significant alterations have been made to the Bill.

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“We support the government’s aim of reforming the welfare benefits system to make it simpler and fairer, but these changes are neither simple nor fair, and will hit the most vulnerable hardest,” said Mrs Robson.

“That is why we are doing everything we can to persuade the government to rethink their plans before it’s too late.”

Mrs Robson has urged anyone needing advice on sickness and disability benefits to contact the CAB offices or go to the website for more information.

l Uttlesford CAB is inviting people to attend the annual meeting on Monday (November 7) at 7.30pm at Great Dunmow Maltings, Mill Lane.