Tuesday 19th October 2010
Charley Morgan, Swindon Sdvertiser
AS THE Government prepares to announce its Autumn Spending Review, people around Swindon are waiting with bated breath to hear what it contains.
Michael Wolf is one of those waiting nervously to see what the announcements will be.The 39-year-old, who is a single father of two sons, fears he might be one of those hit hardest by the Government’s budget cuts. At the moment Mr Wolf and his sons, one of whom has special needs, live in a rented house in Old Town. He works part-time as a midday supervisor at a nearby school and is in receipt of benefits to help make ends meet.
“At the moment things are pretty tight,” he said. “I work a limited amount of hours because I have two children, one of whom has special needs, so childcare after school hours is pretty hard to get hold of. I am looking to find another job so I can work up to 16 hours, but there’s not much going at the moment.”
About 80 per cent of his £650 a month rent is met by housing benefit and he receives about £45 a week in JobSeekers’ Allowance, as well as child tax credits.
But all of these change depending on how many hours a week he works – the more he works the less money in benefits he receives.
“When I was working 20 hours a week they did withdraw the free school meals, reduced the housing benefit and I became eligible for paying council tax so I ended up in a situation where what extra I had coming in was less than what they were taking off me,” he said.
“I don’t mind working more hours if it’s in term time and the extra coming in doesn’t mean I lose more than that in benefits. It is disheartening when you hear all about things going on like bankers still getting their bonuses and pay rises. I think this Government thinks they can take a little bit off more people rather than stinging a few people at the top end for a bigger amount.”
His views are echoed by a group of local homeless charities in the town.
There has been a rise in the number of people “sofa surfing”, or sleeping on friends’ sofas as they do not have a home of their own.
Last week The Trussell Trust said it expected more people to turn to its foodbanks as reassessments of incapacity benefit begin.
Angus MacPherson, of Homeless Organisations Stick Together in Swindon, said he was also concerned about the impact of the Autumn Spending Review on people in Swindon.
He fears the combination of capping mortgage interest relief, reviewing incapacity benefit for people like recovering addicts and cutting outreach workers would combine to make the situation worse.
“There are so many pressures we just don’t know where it’s going to blow first,” he said.