THE number of struggling families in Portsmouth is expected to rise as government changes to welfare continue and more and more people take out payday loans.
That was the message at the city’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) annual general meeting on Friday at IBM in North Harbour.
The organisation has seen the number of people needing help, particularly for debt advice nearly double in the past year.
In the 2011/12 financial year, 858 new clients asked the CAB for debt advice. Between April 2012 and March 2013, 1,464 new clients needed assistance.
But from April 2012, the service has had no funding from Portsmouth City Council after its contract bid was not successful.
Lynne Davies, chief executive officer of Portsmouth CAB, said: ‘Somebody else is providing the council-funded service. We have funding from a number of other services. In 2012/2013 there was a shortfall for our clients of £2.3m on priority debts.
‘That is rent, mortgage, gas and electricity bills. That is something that should worry us.’
She said the removal of council tax benefit from most claimants and the bedroom tax is leaving some families with even less money in their pockets. But she added it is not only the poorest people who are having difficulty with high levels of debt and who are requiring the CAB’s help.
Mrs Davies told delegates credit being offered by payday lenders is also causing more and more problems for families who take out further loans to pay off their debts.
Richard Eade, chairman of Portsmouth CAB, opened the meeting. He said: ‘We have had our first year without local authority funding which has been difficult.’
Me Eade said the theme of the meeting was ‘welfare reform’ because of the impact it is having on people claiming benefits.
Kevin Williamson, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, and a trustee of Fareham CAB, told delegates between 40,000 and 50,000 claimants in the south of England have been hit by the so-called bedroom tax.
As The News reported on Friday, 1,600 people in Portsmouth have had their housing benefit cut for having spare rooms in their property.