Credit where credit’s due for Street

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

Mid­lands who are liv­ing in tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tion, sofa surf­ing or liv­ing in hos­tels.”

Uni­ver­sal Credit was only one of the is­sues raised by the mayor. Oth­ers in­cluded the need to “in­crease the sup­ply of af­ford­able, ac­ces­si­ble hous­ing”, to pro­vide work for peo­ple who are home­less or at risk of home­less­ness and to en­sure char­i­ties and busi­nesses knew what they could do to help.

Mr Street also ar­gued that the Govern­ment was lis­ten­ing to con­cerns.

He said he had worked with char­i­ties to lobby Min­is­ters and, “af­ter look­ing at pro­pos­als in de­tail and lis­ten­ing to the sec­tor”, the Govern­ment agreed that all 18-21 year-olds would con­tinue to have ac­cess to Hous­ing Ben­e­fit.

But the im­plied crit­i­cism of Uni­ver­sal Credit chimes with warn­ings is­sued in stronger terms by a range of in­quiries and char­i­ties.

Uni­ver­sal Credit re­places six ex­ist­ing ben­e­fits – In­come Sup­port, In­come-based Job­seeker’s Al­lowance, In­come-re­lated Em­ploy­ment and Sup­port Al­lowance, Hous­ing Ben­e­fit, Work­ing Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – with a sin­gle pay­ment.

The Govern­ment says the new ben­e­fit is de­signed to help peo­ple get into work. It is also de­signed to en­sure peo­ple have a higher in­come when they do work, while un­der the old sys­tem peo­ple could find that they lost so much in ben­e­fits that get­ting a job, or work­ing more hours, didn’t make eco­nomic sense.

How­ever, crit­ics say that the ben­e­fit has led to an in­crease in poverty.

Claimants have to wait up to five weeks for their first pay­ment, and while they can get an ad­vance pay­ment much sooner than this, the ad­vance is a loan that must be re­paid. MPs say some con­stituents have suf­fered hard­ship be­cause they re­ceived in­cor­rect pay­ments.

And for some peo­ple, the to­tal amount re­ceived has sim­ply been cut.

In a damn­ing re­port ear­lier this year, the Trus­sell Trust said Uni­ver­sal Credit helped ex­plain why food­bank use had shot up.

The char­ity dis­trib­uted 119,946 three-day emer­gency food parcels in the West Mid­lands be­tween April 1 2017 and March 31 2018.

This was up from 41,396 in the 12 months up to March 31 2013 – be­fore the new ben­e­fit.

The Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice, the of­fi­cial spend­ing watch­dog, warned in June that Uni­ver­sal Credit may cost tax­pay­ers more than the com­plex ben­e­fits sys­tem it re­placed.

It pub­lished a re­port warn­ing the Govern­ment has no way of mea­sur­ing whether the new sys­tem is achiev­ing its goal of get­ting more peo­ple into work.

At least 270,000 claimants are ex­pected to re­ceive their pay­ments late in 2018, likely to cause them se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial prob­lems, the Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice said.

At the mo­ment, res­i­dents in most parts of the coun­try who start claim­ing ben­e­fits, or whose cir­cum­stances change, are put on to Uni­ver­sal Credit.

In 2020 the Govern­ment will be­gin mov­ing large num­bers of claimants who re­ceive the older ben­e­fits onto the new sys­tem.

Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn crit­i­cised Uni­ver­sal Credit in the House of Com­mons this week. Theresa May, the Prime Min­is­ter, re­sponded by ar­gu­ing that the Govern­ment had made changes to the ben­e­fits sys­tem when needed.

In his Con­ser­va­tiveHome ar­ti­cle, Mr Street said em­ploy­ers could be given more sup­port to en­cour­age them to em­ploy home­less peo­ple, in­clud­ing those with what he called “com­plex needs”.

He said: “At a busi­ness break­fast re­cently, I was asked, ‘what can we do to help rough sleep­ers?’ I chal­lenged the au­di­ence to hire some­one who was home­less into their busi­ness.

“A few weeks later, I met a café owner in Birm­ing­ham who had been there that morn­ing.

“She told me that she had taken on the chal­lenge and had em­ployed a home­less man to wait ta­bles in her café.

“She had known the chal­lenges she might face as an em­ployer, but had taken a risk to do the right thing.

“SIFA Fire­side, a home­less char­ity in Birm­ing­ham, runs a pro­gramme called ‘Work It Out’ which sup­ports SME [small and medium sized] em­ploy­ers in tak­ing on those who are or have been home­less.”

The mayor warned fel­low Tories: “As Con­ser­va­tives, we must make good on our prom­ises to re­duce home­less­ness and rough sleep­ing in the 2017 Elec­tion Man­i­festo.

“We should not shy away from this is­sue be­cause it is dif­fi­cult, but we should re­dou­ble our ef­forts to cre­ate a so­ci­ety where no-one has to be with­out a home to call their own.”

The top rea­son for home­less­ness is the end­ing of as­sured short­hold ten­an­cies

> West Mid­lands Mayor Andy Street

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.