Council looks to support residents waiting for Universal Credit payments

City councillors are set to consider offering a £15,000 grant to the Worcester Foodbank every year for the next three years, when the Communities Committee meets on 4 February.

Councillors will also decide whether to extend the reach of the City Council's Exceptional Hardship Fund, to include claims from residents who have applied for Universal Credit.

"Our priority is to ensure that local people who are waiting for Universal Credit payments don't struggle to pay for basic living expenses. We are therefore looking to offer swift additional short term financial support in cases where it is needed," said Cllr Lynn Denham, Vice Chair of Worcester City Council's Communities Committee.

Universal Credit is the Government's welfare scheme which aims to simplify the benefits system for working age people by bringing together out of work and in work benefits, improve the transition to employment and make work pay by removing disincentives to work.

Full Service Universal Credit was introduced to new claimants in Worcester in October 2018 and 6,600 families, including 11,300 children, could be affected.

Following a Council motion agreed on 30 October, the Committee will consider proposals to open up an existing Exceptional Hardship Fund totaling £77,278 to support Universal Credit claimants. The Fund currently supports claimants who are facing particular financial difficulties and have Council Tax arrears, which they are struggling to pay.

Each claim will be reviewed on its merits and if successful, payment will be made to the applicant within three days.

The Worcester Food Bank provides, manages and distributes about 75,000 meals a year to people in the City and surrounding area. This is forecast to rise to over 100,000 meals during 2019.

In 2018, 6,510 people were provided with food parcels - including 2,243 children. During 2019 this is forecast to rise by 50%, suggesting that numbers using Worcester's Foodbank will be heading towards 10,000 by the end of this year.

If agreed in principle, both matters will be referred to the Policy & Resources Committee for a final decision.

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