Benefit problems rising in Chichester after welfare reforms


THE impact of welfare reform on people in Chichester has been discussed, with concern raised over a ‘torrent of legislation’.

Since welfare reforms started trickling in nationally on April 1, 2013, volunteers at Chichester and Arun Citizens Advice Bureau have seen the number of people with benefit concerns rapidly rising.

Unusually, the main issue for clients in the past year changed from debt concerns to worries about benefits.

Prior to welfare changes debt tended to be the major concern for most people visiting CAB branches in the area.

However, the percentage of people with benefit concerns rose from 35.7 per cent between April and June, 2013, to 40.5 per cent in the third quarter of October to December, 2013.

Comparatively, debt concerns dropped from 43.8 per cent to 30.8 per cent over the same period.

Speaking at a meeting of Chichester District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee on Thursday (March 6), Chichester and Arun CAB representatives raised concerns about the further potential impacts of universal credit.

Labelling the changes a ‘storm of reform’, chief executive of the CAB branch Carol Groves said: “We will have more clients – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

Ray Fowler, operations manager of CAB, said “Historically, debt has always been a little bit more of an issue than benefits, but benefits have now overtaken debt.”

Councillors on the committee were concerned at the news, with independent councillor Gordon McAra criticising the rollout of the reforms.

“You’ve suffered from a torrent of legislation that’s been dumped on local communities,” he said.

Do you live in the Chichester area and have been affected by the changes?

Get in touch with the Observer to be part of a feature looking at the impact of national reforms on communities in Thursday’s paper (March 13).

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