Charities voice concerns about welfare changes

Leading Catholic charities have voiced their concerns about rising domestic poverty levels and pressure on public expenditure following the recent changes to the benefit system.

Thirteen Catholic charities, including Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), St Vincent De Paul Society (SVP) and Nugent Care, outlined concerns in an open letter addressed to the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.

They called for an investigation into the impact of the Government's welfare changes, warning that although they may make short term gains, they will put greater pressure on health and education budgets in the long run.

The charities are particularly concerned about the impact of overcrowding on the health and educational development of children, with recent estimates suggesting that over 21,000 families are living in overcrowded conditions in London alone.

The letter discusses this issue, reading: "Whilst the DWP acknowledged that restrictions to housing benefit may result in overcrowding, adversely affecting health, mental wellbeing and children's educational attainment, the resultant long-term impact upon public finances has not been quantified.

"With thousands of children now living in overcrowded accommodation and sharing bedrooms with their parents, this factor alone has the potential for considerable exported costs to the NHS, the education system and the wider economy."

Helen O'Brien, Chief Executive of CSAN said: "We have real concerns that trying to make short-term cost savings on welfare, will actually generate greater costs to society in the long run."

She expressed the hope that the charities' concerns would be addressed in the near future.

"We are particularly concerned that changes to household benefit may lead to more families living in overcrowded properties as they struggle to afford rent on their current homes," she said.

"It is therefore extremely troubling that the costs to the NHS, education system as well as to the wider economy do not appear to have been quantified in any way. As well as the clear human cost, the long-term price of poverty is likely to have significant financial implications for the taxpayer."