Fears mount in Falkirk over benefit changes

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Anxious householders are already in despair about the proposed welfare reforms.

People fear the effect of changes to benefits and the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ being introduced by the Westminster Coalition Government.

Officials at Falkirk Council are braced to be inundated from those uneasy about how the shake-up will affect them, councillors heard this week.

But it is the people who slip through the net and suffer cuts to their support who are causing the most concern.

The warning over a need for additional help came as the local authority prepared to unveil its budget for 2013-14. Although it knows there will be more demand, exactly how much and at what cost is still unclear.

Provost Pat Reid hit out at the Tory/LibDem government changes, saying: “They start the fight and leave us to fight the battle.”

He added: “It will be interesting to see if the money the government saves is matched by what we have to spend.”

The woman who heads up the council’s social care services said her staff were encouraging people to come forward for help.

Margaret Anderson said one area of concern for people was that they might be charged for services received when the changes are introduced in April.

The director was presenting a report on updating the council’s charging policy for non-residential care services when Personal Independence Payments replaces Disability Living Allowance.

PIP is based on an assessment of individual need and will be phased in over the next three years. People could face charges if they are no longer considered eligible for the new award, but Mrs Anderson said they would be offered support, including help with an appeal if appropriate.

She said: “This situation is continually evolving with information coming in all the time. However, it is really important that we have the most up-to-date details about people’s circumstances.”

Hitting out at the reforms, Councillor Gerry Goldie said: “This is a most cyncial exercise in passing the buck.”

Echoing the sentiments, Councillor David Alexander said: “There are genuine fears that people may fall through the net believing after benefits are changed they may have to pay for them.”

Anyone with concerns about changes to their circumstances was urged to contact the council’s welfare benefits helpline on (01324) 501404.