New cuts will cause misery for thousands in Islington

Cllr Andy Hull

Cllr Andy Hull - Credit: Archant

Deep spending cuts affecting a third of Islington households and causing levels of pain and grief not seen in decades are on their way – according to a chilling town hall report.

Islington Council says the government’s latest attempt to reduce the benefit bill will threaten the most vulnerable members of society – forcing many out of their homes.

The council has now produced a report, called the Impact of the Welfare Reforms on Islington and its People, which goes before its ruling executive on Thursday and outlines steps the town hall can take to brace the borough for the new cuts.

Recommendations which it hopes will help to alleviate the crisis include supporting those affected by the bedroom tax to take in lodgers, promoting childcare, increasing computer literacy and putting pressure on the government to stop the bedroom tax adversely affecting foster carers.

But Cllr Andy Hull, who was chairman of the Communities Review Committee when it produced the report, admits: “There is no silver bullet to solve this. These changes are going to hit people and hit them hard.”

At the end of this month the Universal Benefit Cap is introduced and it means all families, regardless of size, will get a maximum of £500 a week – for single people it will be capped at £350.

This will affect an estimated 675 households and, along with the housing benefit cap and bedroom tax, it means that 31,730 households – roughly a third of all those in Islington – will be worse off by an average of almost £1,800 a year.

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Cllr Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive member for finance, said: “We are seeing families struggling to feed their children in a way unheard of in decades. The level of need these cuts are causing is leading to the kind of stress and pain to families we haven’t seen for a long time.”

In addition, almost 8,000 ill and disabled people could have their benefits slashed when they are forced to have their claim reassessed for the new Personal Independence Payments (PIP) – set to replace Disability Living Allowance from October.

The company set to carry out the assessments – Atos – may now lose the contract after being criticised for the way it has handled work capability claims, with a high percentage of people it judged fit for work overturing the decision on appeal.

The Department for Work and Pension (DWP) wants to claw back 20 per cent of the DLA bill and Cllr Watts fears “thousands could be forced off benefits”.

Liz Mercer, from Disability Action In Islington (DAII), said: “The work capability assessments have been an extremely stressful process and people suffer permanent anxiety and insecurity on whether their appeal will go through.

“PIP could be even more challenging for people because we all know the DWP is trying to reduce the budget.”