On Wednesday, I attended a Universal Credit (UC) members briefing. Presentations were given by Erewash Borough Council who have already started roll out for new claimants and the Broxtowe Welfare Reform Group who are tasked with ensuring Broxtowe is ready for roll out in November. Whilst supporting UC, I do have some concerns regarding certain groups: self-employed people and sufferers of mental health.
The way UC is calculated for self-employed people assumes that after 12 months the claimant is earning the equivalent of the national minimum wage (the so-called minimum income floor) Clearly, many self-employed people do not earn this amount and therefore could be negatively affected. As a Conservative, I think we should be doing everything we can to ensure hard-working self-employed people are protected under the new UC rules and I’ll be raising this matter with our local MP, Anna Soubry.
I agree with the principles of UC and one such principle is that it should mirror working life. Under the existing housing benefit rules, payment for rent is directly paid to the landlord/local authority. However, under UC this will only be allowed under special circumstances. This leads me to my second concern; that people who suffer from mental ill health could be negatively affected. Unfortunately, the representative from Erewash Brough Council couldn’t advise how they’ve managed with this issue since they have only recently rolled UC out themselves. However, I was reassured that Broxtowe Borough Council is taking several local steps to mitigate the concerns I shared. Some of the actions taken include:
- Funding has been allocated for a dedicated Case Worker working within Citizens Advice Broxtowe to support customers with their applications
- Creation of the Welfare Reform Working Group
- Work will also be progressing to introduce Direct Debit as a method of payment for rent and service charges
- Training will take place for frontline staff including Housing, Revenues and Benefits, Customer Services and Rents Team, who will be supporting customers with Universal Credit
I have attached the UC document below, detailing the UC process. If you live in Toton or Chilwell Meadows and would like further advice, please contact Broxtowe Borough Council on 0115 917 7777 or contact Citizens Advice at Beeston on 0300 456 8369. Please feel free to contact me too.