Redbridge charity slams decision to make all benefit applications online with digital Universal Credit
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Residents who need to use benefits will only be able to apply online.
Redbridge Council announced that it is rolling out digital Universal Credit from Wednesday, June 20.
Universal Credit was first introduced to parts of the UK in 2013 and is a lump sum social benefit which replaces individual Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (SA) and Working Tax Credit payments.
Recipients will now receive a combined monthly payment direct to their bank accounts and are responsible for paying their rent to their landlord and budgeting for other important expenses.
Charity, One place East, which promotes equality and inclusion for people with disabilities and mental health issues has criticised the move and said that it is concerned by the system which risks pushing people into a “spiral of debt”.
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“The online application process represents a huge barrier to many deaf and disabled people,” said Jon Abrams of One Place East.
“How will telephone support work for deaf people or people with a learning disability?
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“What about ongoing support for people with cognitive, neuro-diverse and sensory impairments to manage online accounts?
“We know from our research that many disabled residents find online benefit forms inaccessible. For others, because of inaccessible transport or cuts to social care packages, it can be very difficult to make one’s way to a job centre or Citizen Advice for crucial face-to-face support and advice”
Working-age residents making a new claim for one of six so-called legacy benefits will have to claim Universal Credit online and the council is encouraging applicants to use the internet and get guidance for free from a library.
Cllr Kam Rai, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “We know the government’s decision to introduce the contentious Universal Credit programme will risk placing many of our most vulnerable residents into poverty, leaving them unable to pay rent or put dinner on the table, and face debt and eviction.
“We have been working hard, along with our partners, to do what we can as a local authority and ensure our residents have the necessary support at hand to guide them through the process.
“We will also keep pressure on the government to review this policy decision.”
Some areas in South Woodford and Wanstead will be moved over by July 25. Visit redbridge.gov.uk/benefits/universal-credit