Pressure mounts for East Devon District Council bosses to help struggling families
PUBLISHED: 10:30 07 December 2018
Pressure to provide more help to struggling families, affected by benefit changes and low wages, is mounting on council bosses.
A motion calling for action will be put forward to East Devon District Council (EDDC) at a meeting on Wednesday (December 12).
The move looks to bring two reports before the authority, from the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur, which put a spotlight on the impact of benefits changes and spending cuts on people in the UK.
The motion has been proposed by Councillor Cathy Gardner, of East Devon Alliance.
She said EDDC was due to receive a report on the potential impact on residents in East Devon and the need for further support, helping those affected by the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) and supporting homelessness prevention and food banks.
Cllr Gardner added: “Residents in East Devon are not immune from these effects and in fact the rollout of Universal Credit is already having an effect.
“We have seen two homeless people die since 2015, both in Sidmouth.
“An increasing number of people, some with children are relying on foodbanks in all our towns, including Sidmouth, Honiton, Axminster, Seaton Ottery and Exmouth.”
The news comes in the same week that organisers of the Sid Valley Food Bank said that more people were needing help every week. And the numbers of people needing help were higher than they had ever been.
Co-ordinator Andie Milne said the top five reasons were:
• Delays in benefit changing transferring to UC, which could be up to 5 weeks. • Repayment of loan provided in the case of delayed UC payment. • Low wages and difficulties paying private rent over the housing benefit cap. • Zero hour contracts - reduction in hours/sickness. • Low wage unable to have contingency funds for unexpected expenditure - very noticeable with families needing to but school uniform, coping with school holidays, car repairs, winter bills and household repairs.
Cllr Garnder said: “I’m calling for the council to review whether more support is needed by people in East Devon and whether it can be provided.
“If the council does not have sufficient resources, then we must call on Government to review funding and make changes to Universal Credit. EDDC have statutory obligations, especially for housing, and it’s likely that increased demand will not be met.
“There is an urgent need to provide more social housing as well as support families who are at risk of homelessness.”
Cllr Gardner said there currently were five verified rough sleepers in East Devon - including the gentleman on Sidmouth seafront.
She added there were 27 households in temporary accommodation via EDDC - made up of 16 singles and 11 families, eight single people and two families in supported accommodation in Honiton, eight singles and two families in B&B accommodation, one family in a private sector lease property and six families in the council’s own housing stock that is being used as temporary accommodation.
Cllr Gardner said EDDC was required to help families and individuals in need of housing and was doing so, but Government cuts would likely mean it would not able to provide all the support it does or would want to in the coming years.
An EDDC spokesperson said: “This is one of three motions that are on the council agenda and officers of the council will take any necessary action arising from the council’s consideration of the motions and the decisions that are taken.”