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Howard and Byrne Solicitors, York - Criminal Defence Specialists

CAB Warns Vulnerable People In York Are Put At Risk By Universal Credit

Minster FM News Generic

9:37am 15th October 2013

A study carried out by Citizens Advice Bureau in York and North Yorkshire reveals that 31% of working age people in York do not access the internet.

York CAB is launching the report ‘Access Denied’ at their Annual General Meeting today (Tuesday 15th October). In 2011-12 York CAB dealt with 17,590 enquiries including over 5,000 on benefits issues.

Universal Credit is the flagship policy of the Government’s welfare reform programme replacing a range of benefits including Working Tax Credit and Jobseekers Allowance and claimants will be expected to apply online. The study has revealed that many people will be put at risk of missing out.  When considering disabled people and those living with mental health problems, the risk level rises sharply with an estimated 53% not able to access the internet, say the CAB.

The study claims Universal Credit places an internet barrier between people in desperate need of benefits and the benefits to which they are entitled.  

The CAB is asking that the Government take urgent action now, before online Universal Credit is rolled out any further than the current, very limited pathfinder projects.

Rebecca Jeffrey, Social Policy co-ordinator for York and District CAB, said,

"We need the Government to support our work and the work of other voluntary groups to ensure sustainable and efficient support is developed and in place to ensure Universal Credit is workable."

The CAB is warning that many more people will need support with applying for benefits and are concerned that local services need to be in place to deal with demand. Two out of three respondents involved in the study said that without help they would not be able to apply for benefits online. 34% of those who were previously able to fill in benefit forms themselves said that without help they would not be able to claim online due to lack of internet access.

Cllr Dafydd Williams, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member with portfolio for Financial Inclusion said: “We support the CAB’s call for Governmental support and City of York Council is already preparing to support York residents to claim Universal Credit when it rolls out during 2015. We positively support the Local Support Services Framework issued in February 2013 which lists three main areas of support: explanation and signposting to more information; help making a claim; and also maintaining the claim.

“The council’s existing work around financial and digital inclusion and other customer support strategies already aims to support claimants amongst other groups; including working with the York Advice Partnership led by the CAB, as well as the wider anti-poverty agenda.”

Rebecca added: "People will need help to ensure they maintain their income. But we desperately need more information from DWP with a clear timetable for the roll out of Universal Credit so we have time to put effective support in place."

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