A COUNCIL watchdog has launched an investigation into what impact national benefit cuts are going to have on Barnsley.

Representatives from the council and other organisations met to discuss how people were coping with financial pressures and whether the Welfare Act would increase poverty in the borough

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The changes to how benefits are issued will be introduced in April and the council body want to know how much the public know about the changes.

Scrutiny chair Coun Margaret Sheard said the cuts could have a 'devastating affect on many people's lives.'

"It is particularly worrying that more and more people are facing the difficulties of managing increasing debts whilst their incomes, either through the current economic situation or benefit reductions are being significantly reduced," she said.

"The commission wants to see how bad things actually are in Barnsley and to fully understand the problems people are facing."

Commission members heard there were real concerns that the so-called bedroom tax could leave some older people and families unable to afford to stay in their own homes.

The number of people in debt has significantly increased over the past few years with many often turning to high interest pay day loans, it was told.

Coun Sheard said the commission needed to ensure it was in a position to provide the right level of support to families to help them to 'break out of the spiral of debt.'

"We don't want to see a time where individuals or families are choosing between paying their bills or putting food on their tables."

Public opinion is being sought from people, especially those with families, before the investigation concludes in October.

Call Lesley Glanville on 773078 or email lesleyglanville@barnsley.gov.uk