Nearly £30 million a year will be taken out of the Neath Port Talbot economy through cuts to Incapacity Benefits and Disability Living Allowance. Neath MP Peter Hain has described the cuts as ‘devastating not only to those directly in receipt of the benefits but also to the wider community that will also feel the implications because £30 million less will be spent in local shops and on local services.’ He has also attacked the changes for disproportionately hitting industrial areas like Neath hardest with £700 per working adult lost each year.
Mr Hain’s comments come following a report published by Sheffield Hallam University into the impact of the Welfare changes showed Neath Port Talbot to be the worst affected local authorities in the UK in terms of cuts to DLA with an estimated £7million lost, and the second worst in terms of cuts to Incapacity Benefits with an estimated £23mllion lost. Mr Hain said that ‘ Neath Port Talbot’s high incapacity benefit and DLA claimant count is a legacy of the industries like coal and steel which our communities grew around and that provided employment for so many at such a cost to people’s health.’
The impact study shows that the poorest in the country will be hit hardest by government welfare changes with old industrial areas like Neath and Port Talbot set to be decimated by cuts across the board. Across the UK an average of £470 per annum per adult of working age will be lost but the picture is far worse for many ex industrial areas including Neath Port Talbot where each working age adult will be losing £700 per annum.
Neath Port Talbot is the 10th worst affected local authority taking all changes to welfare into consideration and is the third worst affected in Wales behind Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent.
Neath MP Peter Hain said: ‘Of course it makes sense that the most deprived areas would be most affected by cuts to benefits but the question is why the ‘all in it together’ government has failed to go after tax dodgers and bankers who still continue to receive astronomical bonuses that most people won’t expect to earn in a lifetime let alone as a bonus.
‘The government fails to understand that these cuts will not only impact on the individuals who will see their subsistence money cut, but also the local economy by taking millions of pounds out of it while at the same time claiming they want it to grow. If people don’t have the money to spend in local shops then the local high street will suffer. ‘
Incapacity benefit is being replaced with Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and involves claimants going through the Work Capability Assessment which Mr Hain says involves ‘de-humanising tick-box medical tests which have already resulted in serious problems for my constituents arising from the pressure and fear of losing such a lifeline, with some being referred to the Neath Foodbank. To compound matters many of these decisions are incorrect in the first place and through the help of the dedicated Welfare Rights team at Neath Port Talbot CBC the right outcome has been secured. Their 80% success rate is incredible and just demonstrates how wrong these decisions are.’
Mr Hain added: ‘The Government is expecting sick and disabled people to compete in an already over-saturated market with five people chasing every vacancy in Neath, competing for jobs up against the long-term unemployed who don’t suffer the detrimental effects of often severe ailments’.