Ipswich: Charity raises ‘serious concerns’ over impact of welfare reforms

Geoff Prescott, chief executive of Ormiston Children & Families Trust.

Geoff Prescott, chief executive of Ormiston Children & Families Trust.

A CHARITY has expressed “serious concerns” about Government welfare reforms and how the changes will have a knock-on effect to children and young people.

Ormiston Children & Families Trust has warned that the measures could see families facing spiralling financial problems.

Parents who use Ormiston’s services – including its children’s centre in Felixstowe Road – have spoken of their fears to staff.

Ann Elson, senior practitioner at Ormiston, said: “The families we support are very concerned.

“It is not any one particular welfare proposal – there are lots of issues around the welfare reforms. We have been advising our service users about the best places to get advice, but there is not enough support for them to deal with the changes themselves.”

Geoff Prescott, chief executive of Ormiston, said the ‘bedroom tax’ is one big area of worry.

He said: “There are serious concerns over how these changes will affect children as the reductions in benefits is clearly going to seep through a family.

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“The so-called ‘bedroom tax’ could punish families who have parted who look after their children in different locations. To lose a spare bedroom, which children might use at weekends-only, is obviously not good for the young people concerned.”

Mr Prescott added: “We understand why the Government is trying to simplify the benefits system – and that aim is a laudable one.

“But we would argue that the new plans do not simplify matters at all.”

Another area the charity is concerned about is the “digital by default” plans, whereby all benefits will be run through a computer rather than face-to-face.

Mr Prescott said this would “cause concern” for those in rural parts of the county, people who are computer illiterate or those who can’t afford computers. He said: “The most significant message we are getting back from the families we support is one of great worry.”