Volunteers unite in deep concerns over Universal Credit in Great Yarmouth

Launch of the Great Yarmouth Foodbank.Great Yarmouth Foodbank, run by volunteers and supported by th

Launch of the Great Yarmouth Foodbank.Great Yarmouth Foodbank, run by volunteers and supported by the borough council, is a partnership between three local churches: Great Yarmouth Salvation Army, Gorleston Baptist Church and St Mary Magdalene Church, in Gorleston.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Voluntary organisations from across the borough have joined forces over their 'deep concerns' over Univeral Credit.

A meeting of 25 representatives from 19 different organisations, has brought together their feelings over the roll out.

Together they sent off a letter, which was sent courtesy of Great Yarmouth Foodbank to Damian Green, Secretary of State for Work and Department for Work and Pensions.

The letter stated: ''As organisations which deal face to face with the residents of the Great Yarmouth Borough we have witnessed first-hand the catastrophic impact on the lives of individuals and families.'

It added: 'Due to the severity of the issues being raised and the continued devastating impact on human lives, we believe this is a priority issue and would appreciate a prompt response by December 21.'

A host of key issues were discussed at the meeting between the organisations on November 23.

These included;

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Groups providing advice and support to local people have noticed a 'significant' increase in access to their services for crisis support since the introduction of Universal Credit

The wait of six to eight weeks before money is received is too long and is having a considerable, damaging effect on local people and their ability to provide for basic needs including shelter, food and warmth

Without significant outside support, the application process for Universal Credit is unachievable for a large percentage of people due to its complexity and the requirement for it to be completed online.

Monthly payments are difficult to manage and budget with for those who never have had a permanent work contract.

The letter also included a range of suggestions that make the application process more user friendly. It also included putting more well trained staff on helplines, no further cuts to funding for adivce and support, weekly or fortnightly payments rather than monthly and housing benefit to be paid directly to landlords and social housing.

Adding its voice to the chorus of concern this week was the Great Yarmouth Trades Council.

Members are calling on the borough council to host a public meeting with town MP Brandon Lewis bringing together all those affected by the Universal Credit pilot.

President John Cannell said people whose seasonal jobs had come to an end in October had still not got any money and that thousands of pounds would be missing from the local economy this Christmas.

Claimants were having to call phone lines they could not afford or log on to the internet to use a depersonalised system which was even less helpful to those for whom English was not their first language.

He said: 'Yarmouth has a worse economy than Hackney. Shops are closing and this is only going to make it worse. People are desperate, this is a major issue.'

The Trades Council has also written to the shadow chancellor John McDonnell who hails from Yarmouth briefing him on the situation.

The borough council is due to discuss the contents of the letter at its full council meeting on December 22.

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