The Larne Borough Council area could lose an estimated £12 million as a result of welfare changes, according to a report.
The research, by academics at Sheffield Hallam University, indicates that Northern Ireland will be the UK region to suffer most financially under welfare reforms, with £750 million being lost from the country’s economy.
Political parties at Stormont are currently at loggerheads over the introduction of the Welfare Reform Bill in Northern Ireland.
While Sinn Féin is refusing to support the legislation while First Minister Peter Robinson has warned of ‘nuclear options‘ if it is not implemented.
Of the 26 local council areas, the Larne area will be the fourteenth-hardest hit, with an estimated loss of £610 for each working age adult per year.
Further analysis shows that welfare claimants could lose on average £75 from Disability Living Allowance, £185 from incapacity benefits, £65 from child benefits and £105 from tax credits.
Manager of Larne and Ballymena Citizens Advice Bureaus, Michelle Campbell, told the Larne Times that her organisation had been concerned about the impact of welfare changes since they were first announced.
Michelle added:“I’m not surprised at the impact it’s going to have. We have clients who are genuinely entitled to benefits worrying unnecessarily.”
The bureau chief explained: “It’s not just the financial aspect, it’s the emotional stress, particularly for older people who are ringing us worried. It’s not a good time for anyone who’s benefit-dependant.”
Michelle revealed that local bureau staff have noticed a significant workload increase recently.
She explained: “Over the last four months we have had a 20 per cent monthly increase in enquiries in the Larne area. We are getting busier and busier.”
Worryingly, Michelle believes that the welfare reforms are making schemes such as Larne foodbank a necessary survival tool for the less well off.
She revealed: “More clients are reliant on foodbanks and we are a voucher distributor. There is increasing need, which is a worrying sign.
“Also, the heat- or-eat dilemma is an ongoing problem for us in the Larne area, as we have a higher rate of fuel povert – 45 per cent last year.
“t’s not just older people: we have seen the emergence of the working poor on low incomes.
“It’s not just the unemployed who are entitled to benefits, people on low incomes may be entitled to top-ups.”
Michelle appealed: “I would urge everyone on a low income to contact Larne CAB for a benefits check on 02828260379.”