Posted: Thu 28th Jul 2022

“The Welsh Government needs to make benefits easier to ease Cost of Living pressures” – Senedd Committee

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Jul 28th, 2022

The Welsh Government has been told to simplify Welsh-devolved benefits in a report launched today by a Senedd committee.

The Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee has been looking at the challenges facing people during the cost-of-living crisis and has warned ministers that people may be losing out on key services because of an over-complex applications system.

Currently, benefits funded by the Welsh Government are issued in several different ways.

The committee is calling for it to explore the idea of a one-stop portal for households across Wales to apply directly for the different means-tested schemes.

The report says that it would not only make things easier but increase take-up and help to end a “post-code lottery” on systems that currently vary by local authority area.

The committee is pushing for the Welsh Government to look at extending the eligibility of its means-tested schemes to support lower income households with livings costs, energy bills and the soaring price of food.

‘Off-grid’ households in rural Wales are paying a “rural premium” according to the report, with things such as heating oil prices increasing 128% over the last 12 months and support being thin on the ground.

The committee is concerned about the forthcoming winter as members think that current support is inadequate as interventions via vouchers such as DAF (discretionary assistance fund) only cover 2,000 of the 275,000 off-grid properties.

It said “robust support” must be made available to off-grid consumers ahead of winter and that longer-term support for harder to reach houses is needed.

The report also outlines that more must be done to support those in work who are increasingly struggling, and calling for all public sector organisations in Wales to pay the Real Living Wage.

The committee is particularly highlighting local authorities and health boards where an uplift in wages and an improvement in conditions such as sick pay is needed.

There are warnings in the report that without cost-of-living interventions there will be more instances of workers experiencing mental ill-health because of the mounting financial pressures. T

The committee is calling on the Welsh Government to work with partners to support those who are already suffering.

The committee has also requested interventions to support businesses to weather the escalating cost of living.

Members are pushing for short term measures similar to the relief businesses received though Covid and then longer-term support to reduce dependency on oil and gas.

Paul Davies MS, Chair of the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee, said: “The escalating cost of living can be felt all across Wales.

“Although the Welsh Government is trying to support people through the crisis, our inquiry has shown that the support is simply not reaching enough people – the benefits available are complex and that can affect take up.

“We need to see a simpler system, so the schemes are easier and more accessible to increase take-up.

“The committee believes the Welsh Government should use its considerable ‘soft power’ to improve terms and conditions for the lowest paid, for example by improving sick pay for social care workers and providing a fair wage for those paid from the public purse.

“I’m particularly concerned about the impact of the increased costs of heating fuel. I urge the Welsh Government to act before winter to support people living in rural off-grid properties.”

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