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Census figures show ‘Camden single mothers to be hit hard by benefits reform’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 December 2012

Cllr Theo Blackwell believes the benefits reform will leave women with children

Cllr Theo Blackwell believes the benefits reform will leave women with children "destitute".

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The results of last year’s census were published last week and revealed some eye-catching findings.

Across England and Wales, the Christian population has dropped by four million over the past decade and the number of foreign-born residents has risen by nearly three million.

Since 2001, Camden has mirrored the national picture with an estimated population rise of about 20,000, accounting for approximately 220,000 of the 56.1million living in England and Wales – a figure which has increased by 3.7 million in the past 10 years.

Christians account for 34 per cent of the Camden population, a drop from 47.1 per cent in 2001, and the proportion of residents born abroad has risen from 36.8 per cent in 2001 to 42.5 per cent in 2011.

But among the most striking statistics are the figures relating to single mothers.

In 2011, there were 5,828 single mothers living in Camden, the fifth highest number across all of England and Wales.

Some 48.5 per cent were unemployed, distinctly higher than the average 37.4 per cent nationally.

Cllr Theo Blackwell, Camden Council’s cabinet member for finance, says: “There is a large amount of council housing so people can live here.

“People want to live here when they have kids because we have the best primary schools in the UK. If you’ve got a kid, Camden is a pretty good place to live.”

However, Cllr Blackwell sees a crisis in housing emerging as poorer single mothers face the coalition government’s dramatic welfare reforms next year.

From 2013, a range of benefits paid to claimants on an individual basis will be streamlined into one single payment which will be paid into a bank account in the same way as a monthly salary.

The new Universal Credit (UC) system will mean housing benefit will be paid direct to claimants rather than landlords and it will be up to claimants to manage their allowance each month to ensure they have enough to cover all living costs, including rent payments.

“What we will see is a lot of people presenting themselves to the council who have been forced out of their homes and put into temporary accommodation,” said Cllr Blackwell.

“All it’s doing is moving money in the housing welfare bill to the homeless bill picked up by the local taxpayer. The Hampstead taxpayer will be paying more to deal with homelessness.

“The government doesn’t have a plan, women with children will be destitute.”

Cllr Andrew Mennear, leader of Camden Conservatives, does not believe the borough’s single mothers will be as widely affected by the welfare reforms as suggested by his Labour counterpart.

He says: “I do not believe that the single mother population in Camden is quite the same as the single mother populations in Merthyr Tydfil or Southend-on-Sea, for example.

“We have a high number of single mothers because we have a more liberal population which has a slightly higher percentage of divorce and separation than other communities.”

Cllr Mennear insisted the current benefits system was “broken” and the government was “right” to make the changes.

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