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Welfare Reform and Work Bill could cause four-year benefits freeze for 130,000 families across Suffolk and North Essex

12:29 23 February 2016

Low-income families could be hit hard by the cuts

Low-income families could be hit hard by the cuts

Archant

Young parents and families with disabled children claiming Universal Credit for the first time are particularly likely to lose out.

Almost 130,000 families in Suffolk and North Essex could face a four-year benefits freeze, new figures reveal.

Research by the Children’s Society warns that from April, a child and working tax credit freeze – which forms part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill up for debate in the Commons today – will hit 127,000 low-income families across the two areas.

Young parents and families with disabled children claiming Universal Credit for the first time are particularly likely to lose out, the charity’s report finds.

“Families on low incomes across the East of England are facing a barrage of cuts. If ministers are genuinely concerned about child poverty they must reconsider plans to freeze benefits over the next four years,” said the charity’s chief executive Matthew Reed.

“At the very least, the government needs to guarantee there will be no further cuts when the Chancellor delivers his Budget next month. Austerity has hit families hard, including those in work. Further cuts to support would push more children into poverty and undermine incentives for families to move into work or earn more.”

MPs will discuss a series of amendments made to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill by the Lords today. The legislation could slash child and working tax credits, while jobseekers’ allowance could also be cut.

According to the report, the total number of families facing cuts in North Essex comes in at 50,500, while in Suffolk the number jumps to 76,500. In Ipswich, 19,200 are at risk, and in Colchester 18,200 could be impacted by the changes.

And across the two areas, which include Tendring and Braintree, St Edmundsbury and Mid Suffolk, the figures reveal more than 67,000 children will be affected by the freeze.

Charity bosses fear this could push many more children into poverty as living costs rise.

The report calculates that a 23-year-old primary school teacher and single mum of two children, renting their home, could be worse off by £239 per month, or £2,868 per year. An home-owning army corporal and his partner with three children, including one who is disabled, could be worse off by £771 per month, or £9,252 per year.

A spokesman for the government’s Department of Work and Pensions said: “The reality is that our welfare reforms are incentivising work while protecting the most vulnerable, and ensuring we have a system which is fair to those who pay for it, and to those who benefit from it. We are bringing welfare spending under control, while – crucially – helping people into work, and through Universal Credit helping them to earn more.

“More people than ever before are now in work, wages are rising above inflation, and the National Living Wage is set to boost pay even further.”

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