A benefit change that will affect up to 20,000 people in Brighton and Hove is a ‘cause for grave concern’, say local Green Councillors.
The Government’s phased roll-out of changes to the benefits system, called ‘Universal Credit’ will replace a host of other benefits, with implementation to be phased in across postcode areas in the city from this October. However Green Councillors and local charities have spoken out against the changes, expressing concerns that those on already low-incomes will be made even worse off, as reports from around the country point to up to six week delays in payments and people being forced into debt.
Under the new rules Council will see their funding to provide extra support cease, with Greens alarmed that the end of Council support to make housing payments could lead to a rise in homelessness. Ahead of a report on Universal Credit going to Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities (NiCE) committee next week, October 9th, Green Councillors are pushing for all Councillors to be made aware of the potential impact of the new system and to protect those facing eviction as a result of the changes.
Councillor Pete West, spokesperson for NiCE Committee, said:
“With 20,000 households in our city set to be affected, accounts emerging from other Councils already implementing the change should be a cause for serious concern. People who are already on low incomes have had to endure up to a six-week wait for a first payment. There are reports of people losing their homes- and food bank referrals in areas where universal credit is in place rising to more than double the national average. Whilst it is positive to see a report detailing how Brighton and Hove City Council plan to support people through these changes, the fact is that Universal Credit is a cruel reform, designed to tear support away from our residents by diminishing the Council’s role in helping those already on low incomes.”
Councillor Amanda Knight, member of NiCE committee, commented:
“It is reassuring that thanks to a proposal from the Green Group, allocating £208k from a Council underspend, the community and voluntary sector have been given extra resources to provide support to those affected by this change. But the disastrous failings of the new system mean too many households will face financial risk.
“When the bedroom tax was introduced the Greens campaigned to ensure the Council would not evict anyone put into arrears by this punitive Conservative policy. I urge the Labour Council to do the same, to mount a serious opposition and to commit to protect anyone struggling as a result of this bungled new benefit system from eviction. We will also be asking that all members of the Council see this report, as everyone needs to be aware of the potential impact of these changes, not just a small group at NiCE committee.”