Brent Council is to hold a series of roadshows to help prepare its council tenants for the introduction of the government’s hugely controversial flagship Universal Credit welfare benefit.
A study by Citizens Advice published this week found that a “significant” number of people are struggling to navigate the new payments system with many forced into hardship. It found that more than a third of the people who came to it for help found it difficult to provide evidence for health, housing and childcare, to complete their claims.
People were being forced into debt because of delays in their first full payment, stood a higher chance of falling into debt.
Citizens Advice said people must wait five weeks before receiving their first Universal Credit payment, so their finances were often already stretched. The charity said the government should simplify the process and make sure adequate support is in place so that claims can be completed as quickly as possible.
The Guardian reported this week claims by an unnamed Department of work and Pensions whistleblower that faults have been designed into the Universal Credit system, including wrongly reducing benefit by hundreds of pounds, which can only lead to harmful mistakes and delays.
The whistle-blower is quoted by the paper as saying: “The IT system on which universal credit is built is so fundamentally broken and poorly designed that it guarantees severe problems with claims.
“In practical terms, it is not working the way it was intended and it is having an actively harmful effect on a huge number of claimants.”
The DWP insisted: “Universal credit is a flexible and responsive benefit and we continue to listen to feedback and make any necessary improvements during the rollout with our test-and-learn approach.
“We are committed to ensuring people get the help they need and the majority of staff say universal credit gives them greater flexibility to give people the right support. The latest figures show 83% of claimants are satisfied with the system and complaint rates are low.”
Brent Council said it was mindful Universal Credit has caused difficulties in other parts of the country so it was taking a “proactive stance to prepare those that may be affected”. The Universal Credit Roadshows are being held in community centres across Brent, where tenants can find out more about Universal Credit and what it may mean for them.
As well as officers from Brent Housing Management Income Team there will be representatives from:
• Citizen’s Advice Brent (CAB)
• Brent Council’s Housing Welfare Reform Team
• The Living Room Project
Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Lead Member for Housing and Welfare Reform said:
“The roll out of Universal Credit across Brent from November will mean huge changes for many people. Brent is determined to make sure we’re doing all we can to support people through the process. These roadshows are a chance for anyone to ask questions and explore concerns before the roll out begins so that we can make sure the right support is in place. So please do come along and speak with officers who can provide advice and guidance”.
Dates of Universal Credit Roadshows:
25 July 2018 11:00 – 14:00 Willesden Green Library
2 August 2018 11:00 – 14:00 Henderson Close Meeting Room St Raphael’s Estate
8 August 2018 11:00 – 14:00 Harlesden Library
22 August 11:00 – 14:00 William Dunbar House Meeting Room, South Kilburn Estate
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