Rural families to feel brunt of benefit reforms, warns Cirencester charity Action with Communities in Rural England and the Churn Project
FAMILIES in rural areas are set to be the hardest hit by government reforms to benefit increases, a Cirencester-based charity has warned.
Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) has hit out at the coalition government’s plans to cap increases in benefits including jobseeker’s allowance and child benefit for working age claimants to one per cent for the next three years.
The organisation supports rural communities across the country under government contract.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics showed residents pay out £2,700 more a year on living costs than those in cities or towns, with weekly spending around £50 higher and inflation in some areas twice the national average.
The Churn Project has been helping needy people around Cirencester for the past 10 years. The charity’s manager Fran Embleton-Smith said the town had been particularly badly hit by the recession and the benefit changes would only make this worse.
“In the past 12 months there’s been a real change,” she said.
“You’ve only got to look at the food bank – when have we ever needed one of those before?”
She added it was the most needy people in the Cotswolds who would bear the brunt of the cuts.
“The squeeze is on and it’s the people who can least afford it who are being worst hit,” she said. “It’s not fecklessness that got them into this situation – they’ve been dealt a very bad hand “There are massive corporations avoiding tax but the government are going after the people – its criminal.”
Cotswold District Council ward member for Chedworth David Broad (Con) said he felt the benefits cap was just part of a wider problem faced by people across the country.
“People who aren’t on benefits are seeing their incomes fall as well,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but that’s the situation we’re in.”
ACRE director of policy and research Nick Chase said, as rural areas such as the Cotswolds see well-off residents living in very close proximity to those living in poverty, they often got overlooked when resources and funding were being allocated.
“In rural areas poverty, although dispersed, is increasingly significant,” he said.
“We are calling on the Government to seriously consider the impact of benefit cuts on rural communities before rubber-stamping these proposals.”