A local authority is set to escalate its concerns about Universal Credit (UC) all the way to the UK Government.
Senior politicians in Flintshire have voiced worries about the impact the single benefit payment is having on people, with many in the county said to be facing spiralling debt levels.
It was one of the pilot areas for the introduction of the new system to replace six separate payments and just under 6,000 residents are currently in receipt of UC.
Figures released by Flintshire Council show it has left 546 of its tenants facing collective rent arrears of around £567,000.
The deputy leader of the authority said the implementation of UC should be reversed because of the distress caused to claimants, who are paid in arrears.
Speaking at a meeting of the ruling Labour cabinet held today, (TUESDAY 16 JULY) Carolyn Thomas put forward a recommendation for the council to write directly to officials in Westminster to highlight the problems.
She said: “Universal Credit is costing more than any of the other legacy benefits put together and £1.7bn was put into it last year to try and force it to work.
“Welfare reform has reduced expenditure on social security benefits available to low income working households by around £311 billion per annum.
“We’re seeing the underlying issues here and it’s not getting back to the decision makers or they’re just blind.
“It’s absolutely appalling how it’s affecting people on the ground.
“I think as the pilot area we should resolve to write and capture the impact it’s having at a local level.”
Cabinet members unanimously supported the idea of writing to the government.
They also backed ongoing work being carried out to support the most vulnerable households in Flintshire.
It includes a specialist welfare reform response team which was set up to prevent people from reaching crisis point.
Cllr Dave Hughes, cabinet member for housing, said: “The council has seen significant demand in this area and the council’s welfare response team will continue to provide personal budgeting support and continue to support our residents.
“The team, through detailed analysis, identifies those households or individuals who may be most impacted by welfare reforms and seek to provide support and advice.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).