Over the last week, there has been a flurry of reports and news stories published about the impact of the Government’s welfare reforms – from the effects of Employment and Support Allowance to the ‘bedroom tax’ and benefit sanctions. 

Taken together, they paint a depressing picture, but do they tell the full story of those who rely on welfare support?

Firstly came Joseph Rowntree’s report about the savings created by the controversial spare room subsidy or ‘bedroom tax’.  The study found that so far the policy has saved £330 million from Government spending which is £115 million lower than predicted.  The human cost is far higher, with half of all tenants affected facing rent arrears within six months.  Many have simply been unable to move as there is a shortage of smaller properties to move into.

Another report from the Spartacus campaign network analyses how Employment Support Allowance, the Work Programme and barriers in the workplace make it very difficult for disabled people to find work.  Not only does this prevent disabled people from reaching their full potential, but as the report points out, it also means that Government loses out on their valuable tax contributions.  The statistics speak for themselves, with only 5% of those referred to the Work Programme through ESA finding and sustaining work.

The impact of the Government’s welfare reforms have long been linked to the dramatic increase in the number of people relying on food banks – a claim which the Government has refuted.  A third study, also published last week, has challenged the Government’s view by saying that the rise in demand for food banks is a sign of “the inadequacy of both social security provision and processes by which it is delivered.”  It goes on to warn that if the situation continues unchanged, food banks could become an accepted part of state welfare provision.

While all three reports contribute valuable evidence to the debate about the impact of the Government’s welfare reform, they rely heavily on statistics to make their case; statistics which can be easily dismissed by anyone who does not know the stories behind them.  This is why United Response signed up to support the ‘Who Benefits?’ campaign, which aims to gather stories of people living on benefits and change how the public perceives them.  So far over 1,700 people have shared their stories.  If you want to share your experiences of living on benefits, why not join the ‘Who Benefits?’ campaign and help others to understand the difference that welfare support can make.

Rachel Bowen, Campaigns Officer