Benefit changes effect still not clear, council admits

THE full effect of sweeping changes to the welfare system has yet to become clear.

A cross-party group of councillors has heard from senior officials from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) about the new Universal Credit, which was introduced in Rugby last Monday.

The meeting was part of the early stages of its fact-finding work as the council seeks assurances over the support to residents affected by the benefit cap, changes to local council tax support, the so-called bedroom tax and Universal Credit.

Members will hear from the voluntary sector at its next meeting in January.

So far they have been briefed by housing associations, the Local Strategic Partnership, a partnership between public authorities and the business community, as well as the borough council's own officers.

Labour councillor Tom Mahoney, chairman of the group, said: "We have seen evidence that take-up of discretionary housing payments and other support from the council is lower than expected.

“But what we don't know yet is whether our residents are really coping with the changes, or if they are struggling without help or getting help elsewhere.

"The task group will want to reassure themselves, and our residents, that locally everyone is working together to make sure the benefits changes are well-managed, and that vulnerable sections of our communities receive the help and support they need."