A REPORT from a Welsh Assembly Committee states the benefits system is too complex and does not treat people with dignity, fairness and compassion.
An inquiry held by the National Assembly for Wales’ Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee heard the benefits system is failing some people on the lowest incomes and is causing wider problems for our communities – in areas from mental health, to local government to poverty.
The UK Government’s programme of welfare reform is one of the most important political issues to affect Wales since devolution.
By 2023, one-third of Welsh households will receive Universal Credit, and the Committee heard particular concerns that long waits for the first payment and monthly, rather than fortnightly, payments were causing numerous problems.
The Committee’s report – Benefits in Wales: Options for a better delivery – contains 17 recommendations for Welsh Government. These include changes within the current devolution settlement, as well as exploring the devolution of housing-related benefits and the assessment process for disability and sickness benefits.
Included in the Committee’s report are recommendations to address these issues. They call for the Welsh Government to ensure that Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF) payments are made available as an immediate action. DAF payments are non-repayable emergency grants for people on low-income in Wales and could ease the pressure on households as they wait for their Universal Credit payments.
Welsh Government should also seek payment flexibilities, so people can opt for more frequent payments, direct payments to the landlord, or to split payments between couples.
The complex system is not working at its best and could do more to help people on the lowest incomes, says John Griffiths AM, Chair of the Equality Local Government and Communities Committee;
“The current system is not working for far too many people. We repeatedly hear that benefits are not enough to cover basic and essential household costs, and the system does not treat people with dignity, fairness or compassion. The human cost of these failures is unacceptable, in one of the world’s largest national economies.
“Whilst recommending that Welsh Government explore opportunities to devolve more control of benefits to Wales, our recommendations emphasise what can be done now, within the current settlement, and in the longer term. We believe they set out a clear framework for positive change, which will reduce poverty and inequality at an individual and household level, improve well-being and the economy at a community and national level.
“Almost half of the Welsh population receive some kind of benefit, but the social security system is largely non-devolved. The system plays a vital role in the Welsh economy, for individual households and also the wider Welsh purse.”
Alone, among Wales’ principal political parties, Plaid Cymru supports the devolution of welfare benefits’ administration to Wales.
And a report published by the Wales Governance Centre outlines how Wales could be financially better off if it followed the same model over welfare as Scotland.
The report says that if a fiscal framework agreement similar to the one negotiated by the Scottish Government had been agreed by the Welsh and UK governments and had powers over S-benefits been devolved to Wales in 2018-19, the Welsh Treasury “would have been cumulatively better off by £700 million by the end of 2023-24.”
The Wales Governance Centre estimates we could be generating surpluses of over £200 million by the middle of the next decade if Wales had the same deal as Scotland. There would also be the indirect savings to the NHS and Housing Associations who have had to pick up the tab from Westminster’s shambolic handling of the welfare system.
Living Wage Week highlighted during Kidwelly launch
Plaid Cymru Mid and West AM, Helen Mary Jones visited Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire to launch Living Wage Week locally.
PPLAID CYMRU Mid and West AM, Helen Mary Jones visited Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire to launch Living Wage Week locally.
The company is a champion of the Living Wage movement in Carmarthenshire, and the visit emphasised the importance of employers adopting the Living Wage for their workers.
Speaking at the launch Helen Mary Jones AM said:
“A big thank you to Burns Pet Food for hosting the Living Wage Celebration in west Wales. It’s very fitting that we are here today in the headquarters of this pioneering company that was established to provide a much-needed focus on nutrition, health and natural ingredients in animal food. Animal welfare is at the heart of everything for the firm. Their ethical emphasis also extends to the Burns workforce.
“The organisation is the first champion of the Living Wage Movement in Carmarthenshire; what a privilege and a responsibility that brings and one that John Burns and his staff have taken on board with energy and commitment.
“Everyone here at Burns is a passionate advocate for paying a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and we are delighted they hosted the event to help encourage and inspire as many employers in the region as possible to take up the mantle and follow their excellent example.
“Living Wage Week is about celebrating our Living Wage Employers – thanking them for making such a difference in people’s lives. It’s also about helping our friends and colleagues in other organisations who are also in favour of fair pay and want to learn as much as possible about what it means to become accredited Living Wage Employers.”
In addition to the advocation of the Living Wage implementation across Wales, Helen Mary Jones AM congratulated the 224 Living Wage accredited employers and celebrated the achievement in a statement of opinion in the Senedd. The statement has been signed by Labour and Plaid Cymru members.
Burns Pet Food in Kidwelly kicked started the celebrations of The Living Wage Week, which runs from 11th November to 17th November 2019.
Carmarthenshire residents urged to use their vote
RESIDENTS in Carmarthenshire are being encouraged to use their vote in the General Election being held on December 12, 2019.
Those who are yet to register to vote have until midnight on Tuesday, November 26, to sign up or lose the opportunity to have their say in the forthcoming election.
Acting Returning Officer for Carmarthenshire, Wendy Walters, is urging everyone to exercise their democratic right.
In particular, a call is being made to young people as Electoral Commission statistics show almost a third of 18-34 year olds are not registered to vote.
Those who have recently moved house are also being reminded to register to vote at their new address, with Electoral Commission data showing that only 36 per cent of those who have moved in the last year have re-registered with their new details.
“You can’t vote unless you’re registered to do so,” she said. “It’s vitally important that everyone has the opportunity to have their say in this General Election. It is quick and easy to register, and as always our electoral services team is on hand to help anyone in need.”
Information about the General Election, details about how to register, how to apply for a postal or proxy vote, a list of Carmarthenshire polling stations, and more, can be found online at www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/generalelection2019
Further advise can be sought if needed from the Electoral Services Unit on 01267 228889.
Follow Carmarthenshire County Council on Facebook and Twitter for information updates in the run up to the election, and for results as they are announced.
Free advice drop-in on EU Settlement Scheme
FREE advice about the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme is being made available to EU citizens in Carmarthenshire.
A mobile team from Newfields Law, who provide a specialist immigration advisory service, will be on hand at a drop-in event in Carmarthen Library on Monday November 11 from 2pm to 5pm.
The UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme means EU citizens and their families have to apply to secure their rights to continue living and working in the UK.
Free online applications have to be made by December 31, 2020, in the event a no-deal Brexit.
If a Brexit deal is agreed, the application deadline will be extended to June 30, 2021.
At the drop-in event in Carmarthen Library on St Peter’s Street, experts from Newfields Law will advise on eligibility for settled and pre-settled status, and documents needed to support applications.
Members of the team will also be available to discuss any post-application queries people may have, including questions raised by the Home Office.
Cllr Emlyn Dole, Carmarthenshire County Council Leader, said: “Statistics show there are about 7,000 EU nationals living or working in Carmarthenshire.
“As a council, we hugely value their contribution to the county – not just economically, but for their role in boosting Carmarthenshire’s cultural diversity.
“That’s why we’d encourage all EU nationals living and working here to apply to this UK Government scheme as soon as possible to ensure their rights are protected after the UK leaves the European Union.”
Carmarthenshire County Council will also soon be providing an assisted digital service at its customer service Hwbs in Carmarthen, Llanelli and Ammanford to help EU nationals with their applications, if needed.
This service will include equipment to scan biometric documents like passports and national ID cards.
Visit www.eusswales.com for more information about the EU Settlement Scheme and details on further advice and support.
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