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National conference hears impact of welfare reforms

“POWERFUL” stories of families in Bradford struggling with benefit changes could help organisers of a national conference make a difference to welfare reform.

The conference, held at Bradford City Hall on Monday, November 13, saw discussions around large families, poverty and welfare reform.

Organised by Bradford District Anti-Poverty Group, The University of Liverpool and The Children’s Society, those attending heard from people directly affected by the Government’s recent changes to the benefits system.

Parents and activists from across the city who form the Hope Rising Action Group were among the keynote speakers at the day-long conference.

One parent, Louise spoke of how the benefits cap, which limits the amount of welfare families can receive to £20,000 a year, meant regular difficult decisions between electricity or food, food or shoes, clothes or rent.

Another, Marie, told how she lives day-to-day and that everything is hand-to-mouth. As a single parent, she regularly goes without food in order to feed her children and her health is affected through malnutrition.

The only way she manages to eat is by going three days a week to a ‘pay as you feel’ cafe and using a food bank, she said.

One of the conference organisers, Dr Ruth Patrick of the University of Liverpool, told the Telegraph & Argus: “Part of the motivation for the conference is about saying we need to listen to those powerful stories more.

“Their stories are valuable, but they also have an understanding of how the policies are impacting on them that could help us make a difference.”

She added that large families are “particularly adversely affected” by some of the benefit changes.

“At the moment we’ve got the benefit cap and the two child limit coming to the fore.

“We are trying to find out what is happening for large families in poverty in Bradford and nationally.

“How can we support them?

“Is there this mismatch between how policy makers are representing it and how the lived experiences are on the ground?”

As well as hearing from people directly affected by welfare reform there was also a chance to hear from organisations working to support families with direct experience of poverty, and policy makers tasked with trying to address the poverty that individuals face.

There were also a number of workshops on subjects, such as supporting large families in Bradford, learning from the experts of experience on poverty and welfare reform, and what can be learned from the child-led inquiry into child poverty in Doncaster.

Councillor Abdul Jabar, Bradford Council’s chairman of the Anti-Poverty Co-ordination Group, said the conference would “give everyone involved the chance to hear first-hand the impact that poverty and welfare reform is having on families, and particularly families in Bradford”.

He added that it was a “privilege to host the conference in Bradford and welcome parents, activists, service providers, policy makers and academics”.

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