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Monday, February 12, 2018

Councillors support move against Universal Credit

The UK Government should pause the roll-out of Universal Credit and powers over the scheme should be devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, according to Denbighshire Council.

A motion calling on the UK Government to pause the roll-out of Universal Credit, and for the Welsh Government to demand devolution powers to vary how Universal Credit is paid in Wales, similar to the powers devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland, was put forward by the Plaid Cymru group and supported by the majority of Denbighshire councillors at the full council meeting

Cllr Rhys Thomas, Lower Denbigh, who proposed the motion on behalf of Plaid Cymru, said: “Universal Credit has already been partially rolled out in the south of Denbighshire and will be partially rolled out in the north of the county in April.

"Evidence from across the country shows that it is having a devastating impact on the recipients and their families, causing serious financial difficulties for a great many people.

“Not only is the system complicated, but accessing it is dependent on recipients having a bank account and having access to the internet. We all know the difficulties in accessing broadband for many across the county, as well as the lack of community banks that we have.

"It will be paid in arrears and the housing benefit element will be paid directly to the recipient and not the landlord. This will cause particular trouble especially for those who have very low income and are already in arrears.

"We’re concerned that more people could get into financial difficulties and become homeless as a result. It is also paid per household not per individual, for no reason other than ideology on behalf of the Tory Government.

"This is a disgrace and could well lead to perpetuating the controlling behaviour of some people, and humiliating some very vulnerable people. Finally, it’s paid five weeks in arrears. For anybody on the bread line this delay will just push them more into debt and financial difficulties.

“Denbighshire Council agreed that the roll-out must be paused until the Government have resolved the problems surrounding its implementation at the very least.”

Cllr Thomas explained how benefit claimants in Scotland had greater flexibility: “The 2016 Scotland Act gave the Scottish Government powers to vary how Universal Credit is paid in Scotland. People living in Scotland making a new Universal Credit claim can opt to be paid monthly or twice monthly and have the relevant housing costs in the Universal Credit award paid to themselves or to their landlord.

"This will make things a lot easier for people in Scotland and will likely push less people into poverty and financial difficulties there. This is why we are calling on the Welsh Government to demand similar powers for Wales.”

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