Charity fears 'frightening times' to come over controversial welfare changes
10:52am Friday 5th April 2013 in News
The latest cuts to benefits will hit poor people in Pembrokeshire with one charity worker fearing 'frightening times' to come.
Pembrokeshire Action to Combat Hardship (PATCH) will celebrate its fifth birthday in June and has seen many changes in that time with the number of people helping its help and support increasing exponentially.
And the latest cuts could bring even more people to the doors of the Milford Haven, Haverfordwest and Monkton bases and is a concern to PATCH's Tracy Olin.
"I'm sure we will see an increase. I don't think we will see any for a few weeks but I do think we will see it.
"Any change in benefits we see an increase in people anyway and generally we are already seeing an increase on this time last year, we are busier than ever," said Tracy.
PATCH has 'basics banks' at its bases with nonperishable food, clothing, toiletries and small household items generously donated by local residents and community groups and given to those in need.
It provides vital support to people facing financial crisis through unemployment, benefit issues, homelessness or marriage breakdown, referred from outside agencies.
Last month a £300 Tesco order of food was given out in a day and PATCH usually sees around 20 to 40 people in a need a day.
One controversial welfare reform is the so-called bedroom tax which will see housing benefit deducted for those in social housing with a spare room but one issue Tracy has encountered is people waiting to downsize but with nowhere to go.
"I can understand what the government are saying if you've got a spare rooms, but if there's nowhere to move to what are people supposed to do? It's very difficult not to be political when I see people in extreme poverty - and we are seeing people in extreme poverty not, relative poverty. Our clients can't afford to eat full stop," she added.
The cold weather has also caused issues with people not being able to afford to heat their homes and eat. A lack of jobs along with the high cost of transport is restricting how far people can travel for work.
Another knock on effect is a reduction in the number of household items donated as people hang on to goods for longer, unable to replace and upgrade as freely as they had done.
"It's frightening times," added Tracy. "I understand the government has got to do something, there's not enough money, but whether they have gone about it the right way? I can see that people are really struggling.
"The change in people's circumstances from five years ago to now is just unbelievable."
Preseli Pembrokeshire MP and Wales Office minister Stephen Crabb defended the coalition's welfare reform saying it will make the system more affordable and fairer.
He told WalesOnline that the changes would tackle worklessness and address housing under-occupancy.
"Spending on benefits has soared, in good times and in bad, and ducking the need for change is no longer an option.
"The founding values of Beveridge's welfare state were to provide support and boost individual ride and autonomy, not create dependency and trap families in worklessness.
"This is why the Government has embarked on radical change - to bring it back to its original purpose as a safety net for those in need," he said.
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