Wednesday, 25 November 2015

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Cumbrian debt workers demand debate with MPs

Welfare workers have called for meetings with Cumbria’s MPs about the effect changes are having on people struggling to make ends meet.

Andy AUld photo
Andy Auld

The meetings have been organised by Carlisle and Eden District Citizens’ Advice Bureau, in partnership with Cumbria Law Centre, to raise awareness of some of the impact locally of recent welfare reforms.

Workers are due to see Rory Stewart, the MP for Penrith and the Border, today and John Stevenson, Carlisle MP, has agreed to meet them next Friday (June 21). Staff say they have seen increasing numbers of people struggling with debt as they manage cuts to benefits and tax credits.

Andy Auld, the CAB’s chief executive, said they were pleased to be meeting with both MPs and added: “We will share with them some of the data we have about how the welfare reform changes are already affecting local people.”

He said the meetings will cover a range of topics including the bedroom tax – where Housing Benefit is reduced if social housing tenants have spare bedrooms rooms – and how local groups are trying to work together to address some of the resulting issues.

Nationally the CAB has agreed not only to work face to face with clients providing advice and support but to also use this work to influence and address issues of policy.

The local CAB Social Policy Working Group has arranged the meetings in response to issues identified by advice workers across Carlisle and Eden and with supporting evidence from local authority officers.

The group is also keen to highlight to the local politicians the increased demand on their services because local people need advice about changes to their benefits and support is they decide to appeal against such decisions.

Staff at the CAB have also noticed increasing debt problems as people struggle with reductions in benefit and tax credit income.

Organisers are hoping to follow up the meetings later in the year as further changes in the benefit system are implemented and more evidence is available on the local impact.

Since April 1 thousands of people across Cumbria living in social housing with one or more spare bedrooms have been living with the prospect of either losing up to 25 per cent of their housing benefit or contemplating having to move into a smaller property.

It is believed the policy will affect 1,181 people in Carlisle, 1,766 in Copeland, 1,553 in Workington, and 883 in Penrith.


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