250,000 families ‘facing slide into poverty’

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ALMOST a quarter of a million households in Yorkshire could plunge further into poverty this year, a leading charity has warned.

Campaigners from York-based charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have claimed more and more families with at least one person working are slipping into the low-income bracket at the same time support is being taken away.

It comes as a new report has shown the impact of changes to council tax benefit to the “changing face of poverty”, which has revealed that households in Yorkshire are being forced to pay up to £260 more a year than they were before April 2013.

Findings come from the New Policy Institute (NPI) report into the effects of the Government’s abolition of council tax benefit for working-age people, which was replaced with Council Tax Support last April.

Local authorities were given a one-year transitional grant before they had to devise their own schemes to provide support to low income families using 10 per cent less funding than was available under the previous system. Pensioners were protected in the reforms.

In Yorkshire, 10 councils – Bradford, Calderdale, East Riding, Hambleton, Hull, Kirklees, Leeds, Sheffield, Wakefield and York – have brought in major changes which will see claimants once deemed too poor to pay being forced to find more than the national average of £149 per year.

The head of poverty research at the JRF, Chris Goulden, said: “The face of poverty in Yorkshire is changing. More and more people are falling below the poverty line. Most low-income households are households where someone is working. Benefits are supporting people who might not be able to find enough hours or are on low wages.

“Some councils are finding money from elsewhere to protect the benefit, but when you look at Yorkshire households are losing between £1 and £5 per week. It doesn’t sound a lot but when you’re already on a limited budget every little bit counts.”

Research of the national picture shows that 244 out of 326 councils in England have introduced minimum council tax payments – up from 229 last year - for poor families regardless of their income. Meanwhile, just 45 local authorities have retained previous levels of support – 13 fewer than last year.

The JRF estimates that in Yorkshire those facing the highest costs are in York, where around 6,600 households face paying £260.71 more per year. In Leeds, 45,900 households will lose £198.14 on average.

The co-author of the report at NPI, Sabrina Bushe, said: “People previously deemed too poor to pay anything now face a hefty council tax bill.

“Councils have to hold a referendum if they want to put council tax up by more than two per cent. This government policy, aimed at keeping rises down, has been a success.

“It is time that the Government offered the same protection to the poorest households.”

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