Welfare Reforms To Push More Children Into Poverty Warns Hain

Peter Hain has warned that Government Welfare Reforms could push more Neath children into poverty after the End Child Poverty charity coalition announced that 100k children across the UK are set to fall into poverty in the next few years. The Neath MP said “We should be concentrating on getting children out of poverty but instead we are scrambling to stop more over them crossing the line.”

The charity coalition has warned that urgent steps need to be taken to protect the poorest from the changes to the Welfare system and budget cuts imposed on local authorities or thousands of children will fall into poverty.

The Campaign To End Child Poverty estimates that 3,914 children are living in poverty in Neath. In Wales, 200,000 children live in poverty which is defined as surviving on a household income of less than 60% of the average national wage.

Expressing his concern Mr Hain said, ‘The disastrous Government policies will see many hard working families in Neath forced to make the choice between heating their homes or putting food on the table. Many have already resorted to using the Neath Foodbank.

‘The reforms are squeezing family incomes and coupled with the rising cost of fuel there will be many cases where parents will struggle to pay for basics and children forced to miss out on what others take for granted.’

The worst hit areas are traditionally deprived wards in the UK’s largest cities but with 1 in 5 children already living in poverty in the UK the effects will be felt all over the country.

Foodbanks Wales

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend comment on a particular feature of the Neath food bank? Some 1,400 people in the Neath area are dependent on the food bank. Around half of those are in work. It is not solely people on benefits who are dependent on  food banks; people in work are, too. The Wales Office website has still not taken down the Secretary of State’s commitment that people in work will always be better off than they would be on benefits. Those people are dependent on food banks in my constituency.

Kevin Brennan: Indeed. In a recent debate led by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger), my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) mentioned that he had collected food for FareShare in Penarth. Many of the people being helped by the food bank were not the people one might expect, but people in work who were struggling to get by. The hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) has been keen to intervene; I note that a new food bank has opened up in Chepstow. I am sure that he will pay it a visit shortly, if he has not already done so.

In Wales, the rapid expansion of food banks is a subject that resonates and rankles. It is symptomatic of an approach by the Government that represents a shift away from the British belief in the importance of social security, founded by the three great Welsh pioneers and symbolised by the old-age pension, national insurance and the national health service, and its replacement with the alien American concept of welfare stigmatism—the demonisation of the poor and the replacement of the state’s responsibility with the vagaries of the charitable handout. The good society has been gazumped by the ill-named “big society”, in which well-meaning individuals try to patch the gaping holes created by austerity economics.

Housing Benefit – Bedroom Tax

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab):What assessment he has made of the effect of changes to housing benefit rules on married disabled people living in specially adapted two-bedroom properties.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): When developing the social sector size criteria policy, we considered the impacts on disabled people, as set out in our impact assessment. We have added a further £30 million a year to the discretionary housing payments fund from 2013-14 aimed specifically at those in adapted accommodation and foster carers.

Mr Hain: Why will the Government not withdraw the housing benefit changes, which are having a devastating impact on disabled people, including my constituents, Mr and Mrs Harris of Seven Sisters, Neath, about whom I have written to the Secretary of State? They live in an adapted property. Mrs Harris cannot sleep at night, Mr Harris is a full-time carer for her and they need two bedrooms, but the draconian and oppressive changes the Government are implementing mean that there is funding for only one bedroom. There is a shortage of one-bedroom properties in Neath and they cannot afford the extra rent. It is time the Government withdrew these policies. Do they not understand that the changes will have a massive impact on the most vulnerable people in our society? The Secretary of State started off with the seemingly sincere motive of tackling poverty, but he has ended up by punitively and callously hitting the most vulnerable.

Esther McVey: That is not the case. An impact assessment has been done and £30 million of discretionary funds have been put in place for exactly the people the right hon. Gentleman is talking about. We have to do this in the round. There are a million spare rooms in the country and millions of people on waiting lists and in overcrowded homes, and we have to find properties for them, too. The case that he mentions, however, is precisely the sort the discretionary fund will be for.

Neath Families To Lose Hundreds Pounds

Thousands of Neath families with children will lose an average of £511 a year because of changes to tax, benefits and tax credits introduced on 6th April. Neath MP Peter Hain has criticised the government for making cuts to those on the lowest income whilst at the same time giving tax breaks to the richest one percent.

The new figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies follows last month’s Budget and is on top of tax rises already introduced, including last year’s VAT rise which is costing a family with children an average of £450 per year.

New government figures obtained by Labour also show that up to 1485 families in the Neath constituency are set to lose their Child Tax Credit or Working Tax Credit. In Neath 1300 families on modest and middle incomes will lose all of their Child Tax Credit – worth around £545 per year and up to 185 working couples earning less than around £17,000 per year will lose all of their Working Tax Credit – worth up to £3,870 per year – if they cannot increase their working hours.

Mr Hain said, “It is the same old Tories, out of touch with the difficulties facing ordinary people struggling to make ends meet. Why is it that thousands of families and pensioners pay more so millionaires can pay less? Cameron’s economic policies are not working and they are squeezing the budgets of hard working Neath families to get the figures to add up.”

Figures also uncovered by Labour reveal that, following the changes to working tax credit, a couple with two children on the minimum wage will be better off quitting their jobs if they cannot work at least 19 hours per week.

The IFS figures also show that government policies mean pensioners will be an average of £315 a year worse off from April 2014 once cuts to their allowances announced in last month’s Budget – what has been dubbed the ‘granny tax’ – have kicked in.

Benefit Changes Will Lead To Hard Times Says Hain

Welfare changes will see thousands moved off incapacity benefits with few job opportunities for them, research claims. Peter Hain MP has raised concerns over the impact it will have on Neath constituents on incapacity benefits claiming it would lead to ‘hard times with few employment opportunities’.

The report “Tackling Worklessness In Wales” by Professor Steve Fothergill and Christina Beatty suggests changes to the welfare system will see 60,000 people in Wales moved off incapacity benefits with half of those with no job to go to.

Neath Port Talbot has the third highest rate of Working Age Benefit Claimants in Wales with 21.9% of the working age population in the authority claiming benefits. Only Merthyr Tydfil and Blaenau Gwent have a higher rate in Wales. In the Neath constituency there are over six thousand claiming incapacity benefits with over five thousand one hundred of those claiming for over a year.

Mr Hain said, “This is a very worrying report highlighting the problems of getting people back into work. Last month’s figures showed there were eleven people chasing every vacancy in Neath – that is the reality facing the unemployed. Getting people off benefits is one thing but if there are no jobs for them to go into then they are facing a very unsure financial future.”

The report suggests that in Wales changes to the Welfare system would result in “widespread financial hardship rather than a reduction in worklessness” and the private sector “has a mountain to climb to deliver new jobs on the scale that is needed.”