Poorest set for 'perfect storm' on benefit cuts: the low-paid, disabled and jobless will be hit hardest

 

Britain's poorest will be hit by a "devastating" barrage of new cuts and taxes tomorrow, as a range of government welfare changes are introduced.

Millions of households will struggle as low-paid workers, disabled people and the unemployed bear the brunt of welfare reform, according to analysis by the housing charity Crisis. It warns that homelessness will rise and queues for food banks will get longer.

The new measures coming into force tomorrow include the so-called bedroom tax, which will mean housing benefit cuts to social housing tenants deemed to have a spare room. This will affect 660,000 households at an average loss of £14 a week, according to Crisis.

The policy is provoking a bitter response, with thousands attending more than 50 bedroom tax protests in towns and cities across the country yesterday, including London, Glasgow, Leeds, Bristol and Cardiff.

Housing benefit cuts for those with spare rooms is just one of 10 welfare changes identified as creating a financial "perfect storm" for the country's poorest. These include a reduction in council tax benefit for most of the 3.7 million low-income households that receive it; the introduction of a benefit cap which will see 56,000 households losing an average of £93 a week; the abolition of crisis loans and community care grants; the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with the Personal Independence Payment (that half a million fewer claimants will be eligible for); and the removal of legal aid for welfare advice.

Leslie Morphy, chief executive of Crisis, said: "Our poorest households face a bleak April as they struggle to budget for all these cuts coming at once. People are already cutting back on the essentials of food and heating but there is only so much they can do. The result will be misery – cold rooms, longer queues at food banks, broken families, missed rent and yet more people facing homelessness – devastating for those directly affected, but bad for us all."

A combination of tax rises and benefit cuts will leave families £891 worse off in the new financial year, according to Labour. The Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, said calculations from a Budget analysis by the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) showed millions of families would lose some £17 a week "at the same time as David Cameron and George Osborne are giving millionaires an average £100,000 tax cut".

"On average families will be £891 worse off this year because of changes introduced since 2010. This comes at a time when a flat-lining economy has seen prices rise faster than wages and unemployment rise again this month. While ministers trumpet the small rise in the income tax personal allowance, they should admit that it is hugely outweighed by things like cuts to tax credits and child benefit, higher VAT, the bedroom tax and the granny tax. They are giving with one hand, but taking away much more with the other," he said.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: "Multiple benefit changes mean a perfect storm for families – all these changes will tighten the squeeze being felt by low-paid families in work as well as those out of work. Already, some 40 per cent of the people we see in bureaux are in work but still struggling to make ends meet... These families are teetering on a financial cliff edge, already having to spend a higher proportion of their income on essentials at a time when rent, food and heating bills are all rocketing."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "The benefits system this Government inherited was broken, trapping the people it was designed to help into cycles of worklessness and welfare dependency. Our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the universal credit simplifying the complex myriad of benefits and making three million people better off."

London council leaders have told ministers benefit changes already force them to break the law, by moving homeless families into B&B accommodation for longer than the statutory limit of six months.

At a meeting with representatives of 18 London boroughs, the housing minister, Mark Prisk, insisted that tackling homelessness was a priority, and "breaking the law is avoidable and unacceptable". But the councils said competition in the private rental market was driving a rise in homelessness, leaving them with no option but to place families in B&Bs – and move others to cheaper areas.

The meeting's minutes show councils also warned that "some landlords were now less inclined to do business with councils or let to tenants in receipt of Local Housing Allowance as they had alternative tenants who could pay higher rents".

Case study: 'I don't know what I'd do without my neighbours. I'm really worried'

Ruth Baker, 46, from Newcastle

"I've been dreading April. I've lived in this house since 1996 and now I'm going to be taxed on the two extra bedrooms because my grown-up sons have left, which means another £25 a week. My council tax is also changing, so that will be another £8.97 initially and then my Disability Living Allowance will be reassessed under the new system.

"I worked for the council in a nursery but had a breakdown and was in psychiatric hospital for 11 weeks. I was diagnosed with severe depression and a personality disorder and I can't go back to work yet. I struggle already from month to month. Sometimes I have no money at all. On those weeks I'll eat whatever is in the freezer and skip lunch.

My son moved out in September, he was my carer because I self-harm, so I now rely on neighbours. I can't afford to stay in this house now but I don't know what I'd do without my neighbours. The one-bedroom places available are in really isolated areas or tower blocks and I'm really worried."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links