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New welfare reform may see Islington families forced out of homes

16:49 02 July 2012

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council's executive member for housing

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council's executive member for housing

Archant

Up to 16,000 Islington residents could be hit by government welfare reforms, according to a new report issued this week.

The document, prepared for the full Islington Council meeting on Tuesday, details the impact of the squeeze on benefits, including reassessing disability allowance and the introduction of the housing benefit cap,

According to council estimates, almost 10,000 will have their work capability assessed, many ending up about £40 a week worse off.

It also predicts that almost 1,300 households will have their housing allowance reduced by at least £100 per week.

Single parents will also suffer as 2,000 are forced to go on job seekers allowance due to new rules which mean parents will be expected to find work when their child is seven, rather than the previous age of five.

In addition, the £200 health in pregnancy grant will be abolished, while 500 people living alone in one bedroom properties will have their housing benefit cut by an average of £137 a week.

The council fears the reforms will make Islington unaffordable for many, forcing many families to leave.

This can have a negative impact on schools which lose around £3,000 per pupil –15 children left Ambler Primary School in Finsbury Park alone last year – and the council, which loses around £4,000 per child.

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “This is a real crisis for people – these changes will have a huge impact on many residents.

“The time of this report is interesting because while the Prime Minister is making more proposals about cuts, here we are seeing the cuts in action.”

“They are being implemented quickly and harshly and this will result in hardship for many households.”

“We have detailed some things we can do to help – for instance the housing allowance team has already stopped 55 families becoming homeless – but we are limited in how much we can do as a council and we need to be honest about that.

“There are still 88 per cent of the cuts to come and when they do they will have a particular damaging effect.”

A recent report by homeless charity Shelter suggests a household would need an income of £72,000 a year to be able to afford a two bedroom flat in Islington.

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