Cllr Andy Hull: 'We’re examining the impact of the cuts and looking at ways to try and mitigate them'
Published: 13 July, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
THE Town Hall is calling for people affected by benefit cuts to get in touch and tell their story as part of a major investigation of how the proposed slashing of the welfare bill by up to £30billion will affect Islington residents is launched.
Andy Hull, who chaired Islington’s ground-breaking Fairness Commission last year, is now heading up an investigation into the impact of the Coalition government’s welfare reforms in Islington.
The Scrutiny Review, launched last night (Thursday) will interview people affected by the cuts and will try and come up with ways of lessening their impact, Cllr Hull told the Tribune.
Already, people are being forced to move house because of caps to housing benefit. Next year further cuts are due to bite, particularly sickness benefits and tax credits paid to families with children.
“Nationally, £18million is being withdrawn from the benefits and tax credit systems in advance of the introduction of Universal Credit. Most of these cuts impact on people of working age and a further £12billion in as yet unallocated benefit savings is proposed by the government as part of their next Comprehensive Spending Review,” the Scrutiny committee agenda states.
Cllr Hull added that there are three tranches of benefit cuts, with most yet to take affect: the housing benefit cap, which will limit how much private tenants can be paid in housing benefit; reductions to Disability Living Allowance, which will mean every disabled person in receipt will be reassessed and a “bedroom tax” that reduces benefits in accordance with how many empty bedrooms they have.
“We’re examining the impact of the cuts and looking at ways to try and mitigate them,” he said. “We are keeping in touch with people who have had to move out of the borough for example, and are helping people downsize if they have too many bedrooms. We are all for the efficient use of property, but not by force. I want us as a committee to hear from people who have had cuts in their benefits. We can meet them in private if necessary.
“We also want to make sure that people are claiming the benefit they are entitled to.”
Martin Baillie, the Town Hall officer leading the review, said that people on sickness benefits would be reassessed, and the experience so far suggests that many might have their benefit reduced unfairly unless they find help.
The council helped 172 disabled people found fit for work appeal against the decision, he said, and 91 per cent won those appeal.
“More than 1,100 people were reassessed for sickness benefit between February and November 2011 and 590 of those ceased to claim,” he said.
“Some may have moved away, or died, but a fair number were found fit for work and moved onto Jobseekers’ Allowance.
“A significant number are being found fit for work. We want to talk to those people. But the Department for Work and Pensions don’t tell us who they are.”
• If you want to talk to the Scrutiny Committee about your experience call 020 7527 3252.