CRIME chiefs say the so-called bedroom tax is driving people to ruthless loansharks and committing crime.
Cleveland and Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioners expressed growing concerns over the financial pressures the benefit cut is having on households.
They say it is leading to a rise in crimes like shoplifting and people buying on the black market and worry the benefit cut will drive people to illegal and ruthless money lenders.
It is after a recent interim Government report on the spare room subsidy.
It revealed that 59 per cent of social housing tenants hit by the bedroom tax nationally have been unable to meet their basic housing costs.
Crime commissioner for Cleveland Barry Coppinger said: “Bedroom tax leaves many in severe hardship and I’m concerned that some families will turn to volatile loan sharks as a short-term solution.
“The pressure increases when they can’t pay what they owe the unlicensed moneylender, particularly if a threat of violence is looming over them.”
He added: “Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black-market to buy food and other items they can’t afford in the shops.
“I would reiterate the importance of seeking trusted financial advice, accessing credit unions and asking to be referred to a foodbank. Foodbank locations in Cleveland are on the information section of my website.”
And Durham’s Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said he feared the problem will get worse with further planned welfare reforms.
Mr Hogg said: “We predicted that this tax would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.
“Many in our communities will struggle to put food on the table or pay their utility bills.
“As these financial pressures grow we would encourage the use of credit unions and urge those affected to seek trusted financial advice.”
The bedroom tax came into force on April 1 last year and affects social housing tenants in employment and those in receipt of housing benefits if they have any unoccupied rooms.
Households under occupancy have their benefits cut by around £13 each week for one bedroom or £22 for two bedrooms.
In Hartlepool, 1,581 households have been affected with the average weekly loss of housing benefit of £13.67 a week and the annual value of housing benefit reductions in Hartlepool is £1.123m.