Welfare reforms are 'onslaught on the vulnerable'

Campaigners say benefits changes will cost some families hundreds of pounds a year and make others homeless

Criticism of Iain Duncan's Smith's welfare reform gathered pace this weekend, with campaigners claiming many thousands of families will be forced into poverty by the changes.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) claimed the plan to impose a cap on housing benefit payments amounted to an "onslaught on the vulnerable", which would cost more than 900,000 low-paid people an average of £624 a year – forcing them into debt or homelessness.

The impact of the cap will be felt UK-wide the federation said, but it also warned that a number of large cities in the north of England would be particular black spots.

The warning came as parent groups claimed that thousands more families will be forced to repay tax credits. Currently, credits are based on a family's own estimate of income in the coming year and they are allowed to earn up to £25,000 more than that figure before they have to repay the excess. But the Chancellor, George Osborne, has announced the "clawback" threshold will fall to £10,000 next April and to £5,000 by the end of 2013, raising the prospect of families facing demands for huge repayments to the Treasury.

Lee Healey, a benefits expert, said the changes would have a dramatic impact on poorer families. He said: "I expect overpayments to rocket, and for many more people to be hit with an overpayment of their tax credits."

Mr Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary, last week announced a wide-ranging reform of Britain's "antiquated" benefits system, proposing better incentives for people to return to work, and to cut down on bureaucracy.

Last year more than a million families were overpaid child or working tax credit but the Government eventually wrote off more than £2bn from the amount owed. The Independent on Sunday has established the Government expects the overpayments bill to soar by more than £700m in the three years to 2013-14.

Kate Bell, of the lone parents' charity Gingerbread, welcomed the overall plans but added: "We'd like to see a system that takes overpayments out of the system, where people do not have to deal with that stress."

The NHF also gave a guarded welcome to Mr Duncan Smith's proposal to amalgamate benefits into one payment. The welfare reforms will limit housing benefit to £400 a week on homes with four or more bedrooms, £340 for a three -bedroom home, and £250 a week for a two-bedroom home. They will also mean that instead of people on housing benefit being able to claim rent in line with properties in the bottom half of the local private rented market, they will be able to claim rent only in line with the bottom third of properties.

The NHF chief executive, David Orr, said: "Ministers have said consistently since taking office that they will do their utmost to protect the most vulnerable – and yet the introduction of the housing benefit caps will clearly lead to an onslaught on some of the most vulnerable groups in society. The changes could see hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people fall into debt, forced out of their homes and neighbourhoods and crammed into overcrowded ghettos. Many others will simply become homeless."

The NHF analysis revealed hundreds of thousands of the unemployed and low-paid single parents would be hit by the changes. It found that 18,870 people would lose out in Birmingham, 15,610 in Leeds, 12,620 in Liverpool and 10,210 in Manchester.

Mr Orr added: "The proposal to roll all benefits into one is good in principle but we want to see how this will be implemented to ensure that they support people into work, without putting rent payments at risk."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones