A combination of benefit cuts, food poverty, few houses for young people and a sluggish economy has led to a perfect storm of poverty in Rugby, according to a leading charity.
Rev Dr Michael Bochenski, chairman of Hope 4 Rugby, also announced that 33 per cent more people used their Winter Shelter service this winter. The Winter Shelter 2012-13 served 45 registered guests, 14 of whom were housed during the project period.
The charity estimates its work saved borough taxpayers around £20,000 in Severe Weather Emergency Payments.
Dr Bochenski said: “We all know what is happening. The country is living off a maxed-out credit card, the economy is not responding to treatment and again and again it is the poor who are hit the hardest.
“At Hope 4 we have been saying for some months now that a combination of welfare benefit cuts, food poverty, poor provision of housing for young adults and a sluggish economy will create a ‘perfect storm’ of poverty here in our borough. For those with eyes to see, this is already happening, now.”
Since it opened in February 2010 the Hope Centre has received 269 homeless referrals, helped to secure housing for 81 of these, and has hosted guests on 10,149 occasions as of the end of March 2013.
Pete Wayman, senior support worker for Hope 4, added: “It is clear that we are already near capacity in the Hope Centre and at the Winter Shelter and this is before the new housing benefit and other cuts introduced this month begin to bite.”
He said: “If we are to deliver a Winter Shelter again next year we will definitely need some kind of overflow arrangement with the council and other housing agencies.”
The Rugby Foodbank, which opened in March 2012, has given food assistance to 1,438 people, 40 per cent of them children, and distributed over 18 tonnes of food to Rugbeians.
Warwickshire Rural Housing Association has also expressed concern about the impact of the “bedroom tax”’on families. The changes will mean that families living in housing association homes whose property is deemed to be larger than they need will receive less housing benefit. Housing association tenants are expected to lose £16 a week on average.
Derrick Dyas, chairman of the association, said: “In principle we support changes to the welfare benefits system, which has become overly complex.
“However, the blunt instrument of the ‘bedroom tax’ fails to recognise that many families require an extra bedroom to cater for all kinds of personal needs not least the need for space for growing children and family members with disabilities.”