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CAB - "Upside-down" Housing Benefit reforms leave people unable to pay rent

Commenting on research published yesterday by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Chief Executive of national charity Citizens Advice has said that the "whirlwind" of changes has left increasing numbers of people unable to pay their housing costs.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

"The Government's upside-down approach to housing costs has left many people on the edge of losing their home. Citizens Advice saw a 16 per cent increase in social housing tenants dealing with rent arrears in 2013. Last year we saw a rise of 26 per cent in our clients living in social housing who faced having their house repossessed. We need urgent action to get housing costs down.

"Government's Housing Benefit changes do little to ease the pressure on our housing stock whilst ramping up the strain on hard-pressed families. The Under-Occupancy Penalty cannot be delivered safely without immediate investment in new homes. The lack of options available to people is the fatal flaw at the heart of Housing Benefit reforms and has been made even harder to deal with by poor implementation. This has resulted in many sick and disabled people facing unfair extra costs and unable to pay their rent. With so many unable to meet their living costs, Citizens Advice Bureaux saw a 110 per cent rise in enquiries about Discretionary Housing Payments in just one year.

"For people at the sharp end of reforms, the combined impact of welfare upheaval and the unprecedented economic downturn has felt like a whirlwind. Localising Council Tax support led to 87 per cent more people asking for our help with bills. The extra squeeze on household budgets has led to increasing numbers of people seeking emergency help with everyday essentials. The chaos and confusion caused by reforms to emergency financial assistance mean many people at their wit's end are being sent from pillar to post to put food on the table."

Notes to editors:

  1. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  2. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  3. To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
  4. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
  5. Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014  service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
  6. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.
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