The Committee is requested to receive an overview of the impact of Universal Credit. It is recommended that the impacts of Universal Credit continue to be monitored to inform service delivery of Revenues, Housing and Communities; the Council continue to assess how adverse effects can be mitigated by the provision of Council Services and partnership working; and that relevant Council Policy’s be reviewed to ensure that they support those that are vulnerable to welfare reform.
Mrs Rogers outlined the report and provided an overview of the impact the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) review in the District. Mrs Standing was also in attendance.
During the discussion members discussed the impact following the rollout of UC. There was concern that less than 100% of claimants received their payments on time, with just 86% receiving their payment on time in February this year and with the loss of income in real terms despite the introduction of easements. Foodbanks in Chichester had confirmed that the introduction of UC was responsible for the increase in people using them. Referring to paragraph 6.3.3., members considered that the introduction of an Anti-Poverty Strategy would be a positive move. The Council Tax Reduction scheme should be publicised more widely to ensure those in need were aware of the financial support available. Food banks were set up to help urgent one off cases not to be a necessary support for a large number of families for periods of up to six weeks. It was not fair that a number of charities, as a result of the introduction of UC, had to take on these urgent cases. With regard to the complex circumstances of some claimants, it was thought that around 60% of the homeless had problems with reading, writing and dyslexia. With that in mind, although support could be given concerning a homeless person’s initial claim, many did not have the skills or resources to access IT on a regular basis to keep their claim details up to date.
Mrs Rodgers confirmed that the comments in paragraph 5.2 referred to the Department of Work and Pension’s view of how the rollout of Universal Credit had gone. The Council’s community referrers’ project aimed to alleviate some of the issues created by UC. The UC was aimed at mitigating some of the issues cause by the introduction of UC. Nationally there had been a 52% average increase in the use of foodbanks in areas where UC had been rolled for a year ago, but she did not know if this information was reported to central Government.
Mrs Standing advised that the Department of Work and Pensions payments description of on time payment was payment within one month, which was in line with monthly salaries. The Citizens Advice Bureau had launched a Help to Claim scheme in April this year, specifically set up to help residents with their initial UC claim and to provide Work Coaches to provide additional support for the more vulnerable so they could be referred to the Job Centre to get additional specific advice. With regard to the concerns raised by members about the increase in food bank usage, the Department of Work and Pensions offered advance payments and budgeting loans for those waiting for their initial UC payment, as long as these were publicised and people were claiming they would go some way to alleviate people struggling financially.
With regard to the advance payments and budgeting loans available, concern was expressed ... view the full minutes text for item 298