Redbridge Council helps vulnerable residents claim benefits amid switch to digital Universal Credit

PUBLISHED: 15:00 12 March 2019

A file image of a job centre. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Archive

A file image of a job centre. Picture: Philip Toscano/PA Archive

PA Wire/PA Images

Vulnerable residents have been helped to claim £500,000 in benefits between April and September last year – despite the application process being made online only.

Redbridge Council has introduced a number of measures to help residents claim benefits amid concerns that the roll out of social security payment “digital Universal Credit” (UC) in June last year would make the application process more complicated.

The council’s measures include a face-to-face service for those who have never been online, as well as outreach workers holding weekly advice sessions at Redbridge Foodbank, in Granville Road, Ilford, and attending meetings for adults with learning disabilities.

Councillor Kam Rai, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “It was very clear to us that some of our most vulnerable families were going to find it a big problem to claim the benefits to which they are legally entitled.

“In Redbridge, we believe we owe it to them to provide as much support as we possibly can to navigate through a complex system and get the financial support they often badly need.”

Launched in 2013, UC was intended to simplify the working-age benefits system by replacing a raft of other payments such as Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and income-based Job Seekers’ Allowance with a single lump sum.

This money is wired straight into claimants’ bank accounts and they become responsible for paying their landlords and budgeting for other important expenses.

The council’s efforts have been welcomed by Ilford Lane disabilities charity One Place East.

The organisation’s Jon Abrams said: “As more and more forms, benefits, and advice go online and public services become ‘digital by default’ it is becoming harder and harder for many deaf and disabled people to access information and expert advice and support.

“Offering face to face support for Disabled people, therefore, remains an important part of local welfare advice provision.”

He highlighted a 2018 Equality and Human Rights Commission report which found that the cumulative impact of welfare and tax reforms since 2010 is having a disproportionately negative impact on disabled people among other protected groups.

For benefits advice contact 020 8708 4190

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