Concerns over Universal Credit benefits system in Kenilworth

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the 2018 Budget on Monday
Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the 2018 Budget on Monday

A town councillor has raised concerns that people claiming Universal Credit in Kenilworth for the first time have not received enough information to deal with the new benefits system.

Universal Credit, which is replacing several benefits and tax credits, was introduced to Warwick district on Wednesday October 17. Around 325 households in Kenilworth are affected by the change.

And at a meeting on Thursday October 25, Cllr Richard Dickson (Lib Dem, St John's) asked whether Kenilworth Town Council could organise a meeting for residents who may have questions about it.

But his request was denied after he was told the change to Universal Credit was 'a district matter'.

Cllr John Cooke (Con, St John's) said: "As I see it, the authority that deals with this on a day-to-day basis is the district council. We're not qualified here to do it."

Following the meeting, Cllr Dickson said: "I hope all those affected have received stuff through the post telling them about the changes.

"But the opportunity for people to go along to a meeting, meet with people and ask questions would have been useful. It's a question of making sure people know what the system is.

"It wouldn't be beyond the wit of man to organise a meeting."

Universal Credit replaces six benefits: housing benefit, income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), child tax credit, working tax credit, and income support.

The system, in theory, should simplify the old system of claiming for separate benefits.

But there have been reports around the country of Universal Credit causing big problems for claimants when they have made the switch.

Cllr Dickson added: "I am aware that elsewhere practical problems with Universal Credit have been caused real hardship.

"For example, because of payment delays in the switchover, penalties for the self-employed, use of a single bank account for divided families, barriers to work from lack of childcare, monthly payments for those on weekly or casual wages, technical complexities in establishing online payment and the use of Universal Credit to facilitate debt collection.

"I'm worried that it (Universal Credit) will drive up more visits to the foodbank. And implementing it six to eight weeks before Christmas doesn't strike me as the most appropriate time to do it."