New Kent County Council report denies welfare changes can be linked to homelessness and crime hikes after controversial study pulled
A new version of a county council report that had suggested welfare reforms were connected to rising crime, homelessness and the use of food banks in Kent now says the links cannot be proved.
Kent County Council leader Paul Carter (Con) ordered the withdrawal of the original report, which carried his name, because he felt it was inaccurate and some of its findings were flawed.
Now a re-written version downplays the links, saying it is too early to say "with any certainty" what the impact of the government's welfare reforms might have been.
The original report suggested welfare reforms were linked to a rise in homelessness. Library picture
Mr Carter said he stood by that decision and had been vindicated: "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 was no evidence to support those conclusions."
He added that KCC was not trying to cover up anything.
The re-written report concludes 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".
Kent County Council leader Cllr Paul Carter
And claims in the original report that certain crimes were increasing in deprived parts of Margate in Thanet because of benefit changes have been dropped.
Crime figures in the original report are removed, replaced by the phrase: "There is little, if any, robust evidence on this issue."
The new report does acknowledge there is evidence of rising homelessness, the use of food banks 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... and whether the need previously existed but was not being met."
On homelessness, the first report stated there had been a 25% increase comparing the first three months in 2013 with the same period the previous year.
The new one says the increase measured over a longer period was 12%.
The report is due to be discussed by county councillors on Thursday.
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