PEOPLE living in social housing in Ludlow and south Shropshire are discovering that they could find themselves on the streets.

Concerns about housing are among the biggest fallout from major changes to the benefits system.

This is the experience of Jean Jarvis, who is chief executive of the Furniture Scheme that also provides a range of community and advice services.

A major change to the benefit system means that payments for rent that used to be paid directly to landlords now go to the individual.

“This is something that people have not been used to in the past and causes some serious problems,” said Jean Jarvis.

“When there is no food or the children need new shoes the temptation for people to spend the money and worry about the rent later is very real.

“There is also a tendency for people who live in social housing to wrongly believe that they are guaranteed a roof over their heads and it comes as a terrible shock to realise that this is not the case.

“Social landlords will try to be helpful but they cannot provide housing free and this means that tenants can be evicted in just the same way as if they run up arrears with a private landlord.

“The changes have caused a great deal of stress to some people and we are aware of cases where this has resulted in mental health problems.”

Jean Jarvis said that for a small number of people the ‘bedroom tax', in which people living in houses with empty bedrooms had benefits cut, had caused great distress but generally this was not as big an issue as had been feared.

The Furniture Scheme, based in Ludlow, has now diversified into a lot of areas that were once the preserve of local authorities and is a partner of Wrekin Housing that is converting the former tax office in Ludlow into apartments.

But is still continues its core service of providing furniture to people in serious financial difficulties.

The social enterprise also says that there are some signs that the very worst of the pressure on the most vulnerable people may be easing slightly.

James Cooper, general manager at The Furniture Scheme, said that demand had dropped for the most basic support in which people receive a package of furniture for £40.

Instead more people were choosing their own furniture which is sold at a 25% discount to people on means related benefits.

“The peak demand for the £40 package came at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 when we had about 150 cases a year,” said James Cooper.

“Now this has roughly halved which suggests there may be some improvement although we still get cases of emergency need.”

He said the Furniture Scheme still needs people to donate furniture with a particular requirement for white goods like fridges, cookers and washing machines.

While staff can do the most basic repairs, and can undertake safety checks, the goods need to be in working order.