Warning over impact of welfare reforms in Epsom and Ewell
Families struggling on benefits are being warned not to bury their heads in the sand over impending welfare reforms.
Epsom & Ewell Citizens Advice Bureau is calling on people to think ahead to avoid spiralling further into debt when benefit cuts are introduced in April.
Bureau manager Tom Sheriff said: "I am worried that the impact of many of these welfare reforms will increase people’s indebtedness.
"It is really important they seek help and advice at the earliest opportunity and don’t bury their head in the sand."
Wide-ranging changes being rolled out this year will cap benefits, make more people pay council tax and cut benefits for people with spare bedrooms.
Mr Sheriff said: "There’s a whole raft of changes going to happen in the next few months.
"I think there is going to be a significant adverse impact from welfare reforms changes at a number of levels."
Mr Sheriff believes about 75 families in the borough will be affected when benefits are capped to £500 per week for couples and £350 a week for single adults in September.
Some will be significantly worse off - losing £100 a week or more.
He said: "There’s clearly an issue about a number of them not being able to find rent money for where they live. Clearly there’s a problem brewing."
From April ‘bedroom tax’ will hit people in social housing who will face a 14 per cent housing benefit cut for an extra bedroom and 25 per cent cut for two spare bedrooms.
Meanwhile many people living in Epsom and Ewell and Reigate and Banstead will have to find money for council tax for the first time in April.
He said: "It’s going to be a big issue. They are going to find out in the next couple of months and they are going to be the poorest people."
Localised schemes are also set to replace the discretionary social fund, which gives grants to help people live independently and cope with a financial crisis.
Mr Sheriff said the impact of welfare reforms is going to be uneven with some parts of the borough suffering far worse than other affluent neighbourhoods.
The CAB had about 3,000 new cases a year with half its casehold coming from Court, Town and Ruxley wards.
Mr Sheriff said: "Epsom and Ewell is an affluent area with pockets of deprivation. It’s not an even spread."
For advice call the CAB Telephone Advice Line on 08444 111444 or visit the bureau in the Old Town Hall, the Parade, Epsom.