Welfare reforms leaving many in Wales struggling to cope, warns Citizens Advice Cymru7th July 2014
‘One Day at a Time’, a new report launched by Citizens Advice Cymru, highlights that many of the most vulnerable in Wales are being forced into hardship due to the biggest changes to the welfare system in over sixty years. The report is based on evidence from across the Citizens Advice Bureaux network in Wales as well as bespoke qualitative research commissioned by Citizens Advice Cymru to explore the ‘lived experience’ of the recent benefit changes.
Many who took part in the research spoke of feeling humiliated and ashamed to find themselves in their current situation and this has been made worse by the negative media portrayals of people on benefits. To counteract the negative coverage participants thought that the media should do more to show the truth of what it is like for people living on benefits.
The Department of Work and Pensions came in for significant criticism for the way they communicated with claimants, especially people with long term health conditions. It was reported that there was a lack of empathy, that they didn’t deal with peoples issues sensitively and in general offered a lack of support.
Fran Targett, Director Citizens Advice Cymru said:
“The research highlights that the reduction in income caused by the benefit changes is hitting people that are already on a low income very hard.
“The impact it is having on people’s mental and physical health is particularly worrying. Unless people receive the support they need early on to help them manage these benefit changes, it will likely lead to more costly interventions down the line, putting additional pressures on health and social care services which are already under considerable strain.
“A tougher sanctions regime and delays in decision making processes mean some people have no income at all for long periods of time which has only added to the hardship they are facing.
“We know many people who come into bureaux and who we spoke to as part of this research are struggling to maintain a decent standard of living, frequently going without basic essentials including food, adequate heating in their homes and clothes so that they can keep up with rent payments and afford essential houshold bills. More and more people are being forced to rely on foodbanks.”