KCC issues revised welfare report
A revised version of a county council report suggesting welfare reforms were connected to rising crime, homelessness and the use of food banks now says the links cannot be proved.
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter (Con) ordered the withdrawal of the original report because he felt it was inaccurate and flawed. His decision led to claims he did not want to embarrass the government.
The new version downplays the apparent connections, saying it is too early to judge “with any certainty” the impact of the reforms.
Mr Carter said: “I am very glad that I pulled the report because it is clear the evidence linking these concerns to welfare reforms was not there. Conclusions were drawn where there was no evidence to support [them].”
He added that KCC was not trying to cover up anything.
The re-written report concludes that it is difficult “at this stage” to separate the effects of welfare reform and benefit changes from other factors such as the state of the economy.
What evidence there was is described as “too limited or anecdotal to infer some of the conclusions and statements which were being made.”
And claims in the original report that certain crimes were increasing in deprived parts of Margate because of benefit changes have been dropped.
Crime figures in the original report are replaced by the phrase: “There is little, if any, robust evidence on this issue.”
The new report acknowledges that there is evidence of rising homelessness, foodbank use and debt.
But while the first version concluded the sharp increase in the numbers using foodbanks offered “compelling evidence” of the impact of welfare reforms, the new one states: “It cannot be said with certainty whether the increases are mainly due to welfare reform… or whether the need previously existed but was not being met.”
On homelessness, the first report said there had been a 25% rise comparing the first three months in 2013 with the same period the previous year. The new one says the rise measured over a longer period was 12%.
The report is due to be discussed by councillors tomorrow (Thursday).
KCC leader Paul Carter