Citizens Advice Bureau fears ‘huge influx’ over benefits changes

News from the Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston

News from the Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston

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A worrying number of people are turning to Boston’s Citizens Advice Bureau for help with benefits and there are fears of a further ‘huge influx’.

During the last financial year the charity helped with 5,238 welfare benefit problems, equalling the previous year’s record high figures.

And now it has already seen a further hike in the numbers through the doors – including a 53 per cent increase in people seeking help with threatened homelessness. There has also been a rise of 18 per cent in people experiencing problems with Employment and Support Allowance.

But the charity, based at Chantry House in Lincoln Lane, fears the ‘tip of the iceberg’ is yet to come with concerns the new benefit payment scheme called Universal Credit will lead to an even bigger increase in demand for its services. This is a single benefit payment which will replace all means-tested benefits. One of the changes could see people given payments monthly rather than weekly, raising fears of budgeting problems.

Stuart Hellon, chief executive at Boston CAB, believed once the new system kicks in later in the year there will be a ‘huge influx of people struggling to manage the change’.

The CAB nationally is calling on the government to give people the option of weekly payments, help claimants gain access to bank accounts and prevent tenants building up rent arrears by allowing them to switch housing payments to their landlord.

Mr Hellon said: “Problems with benefits are always some of the most common problems that we see and this year the number remains higher than ever. Every day we see people who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads or put food on the table as wage squeezes, price rises and benefit cuts wreak havoc on household budgets.

“There are big changes to the welfare system coming in this year and we’re concerned that a lot of people don’t yet know what will happen or how it will affect them.”

He urged anyone who may be affected to contact the CAB for free independent advice.