'Reforms may leave more homeless'
WELFARE reforms could lead to a rise in the number of homeless in Wales — and force more people to turn to loan sharks, according to a housing organisation.
The Universal Credit, which is part of the coalition Government's shake-up of the welfare system, will replace most existing benefits and limit the total amount of benefit a person can claim.
The UK Government's Welfare Reform Act also introduces a so-called "bedroom tax" in the social rented sector, and replaces disability living allowance with a Personal Independence Payment.
But Community Housing Cymru, which represents housing associations in Wales, has warned any savings generated by the changes would be far outweighed by the cost of people losing their homes. The CHC and other charities have launched a campaign to urge people to seek advice.
Nick Bennett, group chief executive of CHC, said: "In 2009 we launched a campaign about the dangers of high-interest lending because there were an estimated 150,000 people in Wales using high-interest door step lenders and a further 15,000 using loan sharks."
The Right Reverend John Davies, bishop of Swansea and Brecon, has also warned of the disruption faced by an increase in homelessness.
He said: "Homelessness, or the threat of homelessness, will cause huge disruption for families across Wales and for society at large.
"Everyone deserves a roof over their head and anything that impacts on that is socially destructive."
The concerns come on the heels of a warning by Welsh local government minister Carl Sargeant.
Last month, Mr Sargeant raised concerns with UK ministers in London about changes to the benefits system. When the new system is introduced next year, benefits will be paid to one member of the household.
Mr Sargeant warned the welfare reforms could make it harder for female victims of domestic abuse to leave violent partners. But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said payments can be split in cases of domestic abuse.
Launching a campaign warning about the signs of domestic abuse, he said: "This single payment to one family member could have a detrimental effect on victims of domestic abuse who are still living with their partners.
"It is likely to make it harder for an abused partner to leave a violent relationship if they have no financial independence.
"This may result in them having to pay double rent for both the refuge and their existing property.
"I will press the UK Government as to whether they will agree to take this into account when an application for payment to refuge is received."
The coalition Government says that millions of people in the UK have become trapped on benefits.
They say at present, in nearly 1.1 million workless households, a person will currently lose more than 70 per cent of their earnings if they move into work of ten hours a week, and they want to introduce a system where people are always better off in work than they would be on benefits.
The Universal Credit will merge six benefits into a single payment.
It means somebody receiving Jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit will instead be paid in one single payment.