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Welfare reforms are causing severe hardship say MPs

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Westminster's work and pensions committee condemns welfare reforms for causing severe hardship to disabled and vulnerable people.

Welfare reforms are causing severe financial hardship and distress to disabled people and vulnerable groups who are not the intended target, a committee of MPs said this week.

The Westminster work and pensions committee called on the UK Government to exempt people in receipt of disability benefit from some elements of reform, including the controversial bedroom tax.

The committee’s report followed its inquiry into support for housing costs in the reformed welfare system, and attacked the reforms for targeting people who are unable to do anything to improve their income.

Vulnerable groups, who were not the intended targets of the reforms and are not able to respond by moving house or finding a job, are suffering as a result - Dame Anne Begg MP

Dame Anne Begg MP, chair of the committee, said: "The government has reformed the housing cost support system with the aim of reducing benefit expenditure and incentivising people to enter work. But vulnerable groups, who were not the intended targets of the reforms and are not able to respond by moving house or finding a job, are suffering as a result.”

The committee called for the UK Government to invest more in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs): funds that councils can use to support people affected by welfare cuts to pay their rent. The Scottish Government has already committed to increasing DHPs in Scotland to cover all rent shortfalls caused by the spare room subsidy, or bedroom tax.

The Westminster committee’s report also said the UK Government should exempt people who receive Carer's Allowance and people in temporary accommodation from the cap that restricts the amount of benefits an individual household can claim.

Begg said: "The government has stated that the benefit cap is not intended to push carers into work. But this may well be its effect unless recipients of Carer's Allowance are exempted from the cap."

"Homeless people placed in temporary accommodation have no choice over where they are housed and few options for reducing their housing costs. It seems particularly unjust, therefore, for them to be affected by the benefit cap."

The committee’s report came out just a day after Scottish charities gave evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee on the impact of sanctions on people who receive benefits.

John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “To think for one second that stopping people’s benefits and plunging them into destitution will help people find jobs only goes to show what little grasp the UK Government has on the real lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are struggling to get by from one day to the next.

“Charities are picking up the pieces with shelters, food banks and emergency grants, but they are struggling to keep up with demand. These ruthless sanctions must stop so we can focus on ways to actually help people get back into work and get involved in their communities.”

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