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From Birmingham: welfare reforms make child poverty target “unachievable”

From Birmingham Against the Cuts - a look at how Universal Credit and welfare "reform" affects Birmingham:

In a damning report to the Birmingham City Council Social Cohesion and Community Safety committee concerning welfare and benefit cuts, the Birmingham Voluntary Services Council (BVSC) has said that they anticipate an increase in child poverty due to income support changes meaning lone parents can only claim Income Support while the youngest child is under 5.

Under Universal Credit, the child disability addition is 50% less (£26 from £53), unfairly penalising disabled children, and rendering the government target of ending child poverty by 2020 unachievable.

The TUC has calculated that 71 per cent of the 310,000 individuals affected by this Universal Benefit policy will be children, and that 75 per cent of the 110,000 individuals at risk of homelessness are children
 

The report, which contained submissions from 17 charitable and non-profit organisations around Birmingham, slams the welfare reforms – many of which come into effect in April 2013 – warning of huge problems coming up for the people they work with as benefits get cut and changed.

Yvonne Davies, Chief Executive of Birmingham CAB, said that those in low paid and part time jobs would be the worst hit by the reforms and warned of dire consequences as a result of the reforms:
 

Some people will look to alternative ways to get money. It isn’t right, but there will be more burglaries, more shoplifting and the potential for social meltdown as we saw in the riots.
 

St Basils, who work with homeless young people has seen a 32.6% increase in homelessness on the previous year, with 4,574 young people between the ages of 16-25 seeking assistance as homeless in 2011/12.

We expect these numbers to increase as benefit reforms hit young people. In the report, Freshwinds show how a 26 year old unemployed person will be losing £181/month in housing benefit. These cuts, along with cuts to council tax benefit, will lead to many people moving and losing support networks. There will be a general loss of community and social cohesion – especially for children who will be forced to move schools.

Parents working part time have already lost out in cuts to tax credits, which now require 24 hours/week to be eligible, up from 16 hours/week at a time when it is almost impossible to get more hours from your employer and there are a record number of part time workers seeking full time work.

This has caused the loss of as much as £4,000/year to hard working families, struggling to get by in difficult times.

All in all these reforms spell bad news for children, young people and families.

The Child Poverty Action Group says that under current government policies, child poverty is projected to rise from 2012/13 with an expected 300,000 more children living in poverty by 2015/16.

This upward trend is expected to continue with 4.2 million children projected to be living in poverty by 2020.

The national picture is reflected in Birmingham, and Birmingham and Solihull Women’s Aid say

a recent survey showed Birmingham to be the local authority with the highest number of children in poverty, with 90,000 such children: in the period leading up to this inquiry BSWA has experienced hungry, unfed children appearing at our services seeking food.
 

While the welfare reform bill has been passed, we can still stop Universal Credit, which has not completed its pilot schemes yet and has come under increased pressure from inside the coalition.

The resistance that will be needed is not going to come from the council, who at best will be seeking to mitigate some of the worst effects of welfare cuts.

It can only come from the streets – so if you are worried about the effect welfare cuts will have on you and your family, if you are angry about the effect they are having already - if you think that we should live in a society which seeks to support all its members to a decent life and think that the cuts to welfare should not happen when £25bn every year is allowed to disappear through tax avoidance, then join us on Sunday 7 October for the Tory Conference demonstration.

Find out more at Birmingham Against the Cuts. There is a list of upcoming consultation meetings on changes to council tax benefits here.

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