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Meeting warns ‘perfect storm’ of benefit reforms will hit Norfolk’s vulnerable people the hardest

12:56 28 November 2012

The NCAN welfare reform conference at the King

The NCAN welfare reform conference at the King's Centre. Dan Mobbs, chief executive MAP youth charity, chairs the panel. Picture: Denise Bradley


Welfare reforms in the next three years risk creating “a perfect storm” with the poorest and most vulnerable in Norfolk hit hardest, a conference in Norwich heard yesterday.

The NCAN welfare reform conference at the Kings Centre. Harold Bodmer, director of community services, Norfolk County Council. Picture: Denise BradleyThe NCAN welfare reform conference at the Kings Centre. Harold Bodmer, director of community services, Norfolk County Council. Picture: Denise Bradley

Welfare reforms in the next three years risk creating “a perfect storm” with the poorest and most vulnerable in Norfolk hit hardest, a conference in Norwich heard yesterday.

Support services are already struggling to cope with an increased demand as a result of the changes, delegates at a Norfolk Community Advice Network (NCAN) conference were told, with the warning that the worst is yet to come.

More than 100 delegates, representing bodies including Norfolk County Council, the county’s district councils, housing charities, money advice agencies and disability groups, attended the event at the King’s Centre in Norwich.

A report compiled by Dr Chris Edwards, a researcher at the University of East Anglia, showed the areas of greatest need were parts of Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.

For the 70,000 households in Norfolk living in poverty, cuts in benefits could mean loss of up to eight per cent of weekly income by April 2015, compared to four years previous.

Dr Edwards explained that £182m had been earmarked to be cut from Norfolk’s budget by 2014/15, which totalled £2.7bn in 2010/11.

Adam Clark, project coordinator for NCAN, said the conference was the first step to coordinating a response to changes to benefits and legal aid, helping agencies to work together to target support where it was most needed.

“There is a lot of uncertainty and a need for advice for people, but what we are seeing is an increase in demand and a decrease in supply,” he said.

Citing a “hardening” in public opinion about people in receipt of benefits, Mr Clark stressed the changes would also hit those in part-time work and low-paid jobs, particularly young people seeking work.

Money saved in benefits could end up being spent, and more, in other ways, if crucial welfare services are taken away, he said.

“For example, there is a clear correlation between debt and mental and physical health issues,” he said.

Further cuts to benefits are due in April, and Mr Clark said it was vital agencies were ready.

Harold Bodmer, director of community services at Norfolk County Council, explained how it planned to run parts of the Social Fund scheme it takes over from central government next year, including crisis loans and winter fuel payments.

A report to go before cabinet on Monday will set out a plan to gather more information to target money in the right areas.

Diana Fawcett, director of operations at housing charity Shelter, pictured below, said squeezed household incomes would see families forced out of their homes.

“It’s something that’s already happening across the country,” she added afterwards. “The number of children living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation is up 200pc in the past two years, and homelessness is up by 23pc.”

People in the increasingly expensive private rented sector whose housing benefit does not cover their rent are expected to be among those most affected by April’s changes.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People, said the reforms unfairly hit disabled people and warned of “turning the clock back to Victorian times”.

“The government is targeting disabled people in the sharpest way, by raising the threshold of access to benefits,” he said.

The reforms risk undoing decades of work in affording disabled people the same opportunities as everyone else in society, he added.

“During the Paralympics, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson said we had created the foundation for that level of performance because of the disability living allowance and the de-institutional-isation that disabled people have fought for – getting into the community and being members of society,” he said. “The cost of being disabled already means we are 20pc poorer than the rest of the population.”

Mr Harrison warned cuts would lead to disabled people being “imprisoned” in their homes, resulting in isolation, depression and even suicide.

The Norwich Evening News has reported on the huge surge in use of the Norwich Foodbank, which this year will feed 5,000 adults and children left unable to feed themselves by benefit delays, illness or sudden unemployment.

This month, Norwich City Council studied a report which showed that in some parts of the city more than four children in 10 were growing up in poverty.

The city also fared considerably worse than the rest of the country on deprivation, long-term unemployment, physically active children and adults, hospital stays for self-harm and drug abuse.

For more information on the range of advice and support that is available, see


  • ....“The government is targeting disabled people in the sharpest way, by raising the threshold of access to benefits,” he said.....Disagree, would you prefer an arbitrary reduction of say 10 percent across the board? that would be sharper wouldn't it?

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    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • Look, everything will be fine. Chloe will get a grovelling write-up in the EDP blowing the trumpet about her charitable work, helping the needy people of Norwich, along with a lovely photo opportunity. Its a win-win situation: Tories hack the wealthfare stae to death and still come up smelling of roses.

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    Police Commissioner ???

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • Peter Watson - The part time culture was mainly the creation of the last government. A rather complicated issue but they encouraged people to work only 16 hours a week because of generous benefits, tax credits etc. It also benefited employers not to have a full time work force as it gave them greater flexibility and they did not have to pay things like NI. It has all come home to roost and yes Peter there are plenty of workshy scroungers about. I see them everyday. They are not a figment of anyone's imagination unlike your Coalition created army of working poor.

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    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation 6.1 million people in poverty are in working households. Excluding pensioners, in-work poverty now outstrips workless poverty at 5.1 million households. 6.4 million people now lack the paid work they want. There are 1.4 million part-time workers wanting full-time work – the highest figure in 20 years. It is pure demonisation as witnessed by BG's contribution to suggest those on benefits are workshy scroungers.The Coalition government have in fact created an army of the working poor.

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    Peter Watson

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • At some the total or part reliance on the welfare state instead of working, part or full time time, had to stop. A balance has to be struck between those in genuine need, who cannot work and the significant portion of society who have made a life choice to get as much as they can out of the system for the least amount of effort. Get it wrong and the govt will be in trouble but at the moment people in general are behind them. We must remember of course this was a meeting of individuals with a vested interest which meant that the other side of the argument was never up for discussion.

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    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • Read the headline, it says vulnerable people, people with lesser abilities, disabled people and those who relyu on the state for their sanity, nothing top do with right left up or down, but with compassion. Stop playing empire and create wars everywhere and you have money topm, spend on society. Make companies who want to sell here, pay taxes here, or tell them to go to hell, nationalise their assets, whatever, they are socially irresponsible, the real scroungers.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

  • you only get what you vote for . Why not vote for a party which puts british people first . And its certainly not one of the three main parties

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    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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