The welfare reforms are a ‘time-bomb’ whose impact on East Lindsey is likely to be ‘very significant’ but ‘impossible to quantify’ until they fully set in, councillors have warned.
Coun Philip Sturman said government schemes such as the bedroom tax, benefits cap and withdrawal of council tax support, represented the ‘most fundamental change to the welfare system in many, many years’.
Introducing the summary of his report on the impact of welfare reform at Wednesday’s East Lindsey District Council meeting, he said: “The impact of the reforms is likely to be very significant for some East Lindsey residents, for the council and for other agencies.
“It is impossible to quantify the full extent of, or the timescale for the impacts.”
Whereas only 52 families in East Lindsey are expected to be directly affected by the capping of benefits to £350 per week for an individual or £500 for a family, around 7,000 people have been made worse off by the reductions to council tax support.
A further 1,049 households have also been stung by the bedroom tax, although New Linx Housing Trust has been working to down-size families and has already helped 20 households across the district.
Coun Sturman went on to say that the reforms would affect people in work as well as the unemployed and dispelled rumours that it was mainly ‘benefits cheats and lazy teens’ that would suffer the most.
He also warned that those likely to be affected were not taking preventative action which could make the consequences on the wider economic picture ‘far-reaching’ when their knock-on effects began to bite.
The Mayor of Skegness Coun Mark Anderson said he had already heard a number of ‘heart-breaking’ stories of vulnerable people in his town suffering under the changes.
“I’ve been hearing some real horror stories about the cuts biting and biting hard,” he said.
“Single parents are being made to look after their children with just £20 a week and food banks are running out of food because of lack of support.
“I believe we need to grow our economy but I fear that some of these cuts will have the adverse effect of shrinking our economy.”
And Coun Sarah Dodds warned that it could be 18 months before the full impact of the changes are known.
“We are sitting on a time bomb,” she said.
“Residents may not feel the full consequences of this for six to 18 months and they may wait for the problems to hit before they seek our help - hence the need for us to be constantly watchful.”