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The winners and losers of welfare reform

Published date: 07 March 2014 |
Published by: Kirstie Dolphin
Read more articles by Kirstie Dolphin


 

DENBIGHSHIRE will be the hardest hit county in North Wales by welfare changes, according to new figures.

Working age adults in Denbighshire will lose on average £522 per year due to welfare reform, 28 per cent more than Gwynedd, according to new figures by the Welsh Government.

Winnie Lawson, acting manager of Denbigh’s Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), said this is a conservative estimate.

She said: “The welfare changes are coming in gradually and people don’t realise the real impact of them. The Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) only lasts for 364 days and then payments are stopped and a lot of clients are not aware of this as the new letters are not clear.

“This is not a party political point as some of these changes were being looked at before this government came into office.”

Ms Lawson is also concerned benefit sanctions are being applied unfairly and can now last up to 150 weeks.

A recent client of Denbigh CAB was five minutes late to a job centre appointment after his bus was 20 minutes late. His benefit was sanctioned and he received no money.

She added: “It is a barrier to finding a job, they won’t have the money to send letters, pay for internet, attend interviews or even get to the job centre.
“Some of what is happening is disgraceful.

“One client in her 60s who receives Disability Living Allowance and who cannot read or write had a medical examination for ESA. The examiner said she could use a mouse and keyboard. Her benefit was withdrawn.

“She won’t receive any money until there has been a mandatory reconsideration of the decision, which could take three to four weeks and if it isn’t changed it could be months before an appeal is heard.

“We can give food vouchers in the meantime but not pay for heating bills.”
Vale of Clwyd AM Ann Jones, said: “The UK Government has presided over one of the worst cost of living crises we have ever seen. People across Denbighshire are worse off due to cuts to social security, tax credits and rising costs of fuel, rents and food.

“The UK Government has done absolutely nothing to make things easier for ordinary people across Wales.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has disputed these claims, a spokesman said: “Our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the Universal Credit making three million households better off, including 200,000 households in Wales who will be better off by an average of £168 per month.

“The UK Government has taken further action to cut the cost of living; freezing fuel duty and increasing the tax-free personal allowance to £10,000, which will save a typical taxpayer over £700.”

TWO Llangollen residents have seen first hand the positive and negative affects of the welfare reform.

Martin Crumpton, from Llangollen, who moved from Disability Living Allowance to Employment Support Allowance (ESA) last year receives more in benefits than ever before.

He said: “I’ve not really had any negative affects from the reform, in fact under this government I have actually benefited.

“I am now receiving more in benefits for my permanent disability than I ever did under the Labour government and I think a lot of pensioners and people with disability find that.”

But Mr Crumpton received a letter from the Work and Pensions Department last month stating he had been moved into a working group as ESA which automatically ends after a year.

After complaining to the Work and Pensions Department Mr Crumpton was moved on to the support group, for people with a disability.

Mr Crumpton said: “There is a glitch in the system after a year it automatically classifies people as partially fit for work.

“It’s a systematic error. I’m not afraid to complain so I didn’t lose any money and they put it right but some people may not complain and that’s not fair on them.”
But Jude Williams, 61, from Llangollen,suffered a similar error but has not had the same results.

Jude has not received any money since her ESA finished in September 2013. She was moved onto the working group, instead of the support group like Mr Crumpton.

This was despite her medical problems including chronic fatigue syndrome, oestoporosis of the spine and lumps on her leg making them stiff.
After ESA stopped in September, Jude, a former social worker, was told she is not entitled to any benefits.

She said: “Because my partner and I are in receipt of a small pension from our former employers, JobcentrePlus told me that according to government guidelines, we should be able to live on a £112 a week.

“Gas and electricity are going up each winter. Due to poor circulation in my leg, I’ve got to keep warm. Therefore, we have to have the gas central heating on all day.

“I feel, that after putting myself through college to become a qualified social worker – working with the elderly mentally ill – and paying my taxes, I’ve been short changed by this Government and left on the scrapheap.”

For more news from across the region visit newsnorthwales.co.uk

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