Councillors Warned Of ‘Ramifications’ Of New Universal Benefits System

town hall 11The Council will be providing more help for residents moving to the new benefits system, being introduced over the next two years.

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment, which merges together some of the benefits and tax credits that people in and out of work might already be receiving, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.

But at yesterday’s Community Services meeting, Cllr Fran Grottick wanted assurances that special courses being run by the Council, which provide help on applying for the new benefits, would continue.

She said people could “fall through the gaps” if they didn’t.

Senior Manager for Community Services, Aisling Hick, said the numbers needing support at the moment were small, because it had only been applied to new applicants.

But next year, it would be rolled out to couples and families and there could be a lot more demand.

The main problem is that applications have to be made online and the system will ‘time out’ if it takes longer than 40 minutes.

For people with poor IT skills or who don’t have English as their first language, “it can be a daunting process,” said Aisling.

Cllr Fraser Hicks agreed. He said some older people would be “absolutely snookered” having to fill in the applications online.

Aisling says there are other problems too. Some people in Scilly don’t have a computer because they’re only living here for six months or can’t afford one.

She said the Council had been given money by the government to help with the introduction of the scheme.

They’ll use that to buy some laptops, which will be made available at the library and Health and Wellbeing Centre for applicants to use. And frontline staff will also be trained in how to support people.

Aisling says the legislation has been agreed by all the political parties and it’s intended to help people to return to work rather than penalising them.

But she warned that there will be “significant repercussions” in Scilly because some families will see that it’s more affordable to return to employment and will require childcare.

“We need to brace ourselves for the ramifications,” she said.