The manager of Clitheroe’s Citizens Advice Bureau has issued a stark warning that food poverty and more rent arrears are around the corner with the roll out of Universal Credit into the Ribble Valley.
“Now is the time get our voices heard,” said Katy Marshall, who is urging people to lobby Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans and ask him to get the Government to think again.
“Universal Credit is due in Ribble Valley in less than six months’ time.
“When this had happened in other areas, self-employed and disabled people have had a significant drop in income.
“This can have a disastrous impact on household finances. The number of social housing tenants with rent arrears has more than tripled where Universal Credit has been introduced.
“We expect vulnerable people here to be hit worst.”
She added: “This new benefit system which is to replace Tax Credits, Housing Benefit, Jobseekers and the disability benefit, Employment and Support Allowance has to be claimed on line.
“If you don’t have internet access or IT skills, you will struggle to get any support.
“We are concerned that the demand for help with benefits will hit just at the time when we are struggling at Citizens Advice.
“We rely upon an annual grant of ‘core funding’ from Ribble Valley Borough Council. We have done since we opened in 1987.
“Last month we heard that our funding was to be cut by 14% which is the biggest grant cut we have ever had over the 30 year life of the organisation in town.
“Charity funding has been hard to gain over the last couple of years and we are more than ever reliant upon our main funder, Ribble Valley Borough Council.
“The impact of this is that we are forced to reduce our service next month.
“Instead of opening four days a week, from July 1st we can only open three days or face a financial crisis.
“It is sad and ironic that help for people is being cut back just at the point where will be most needed.”
A Ribble Valley Borough Council spokesman said: “We have given the Citizens’ Advice Bureau £51,000 this year and over £1.2 million since 1994.
“This is by far the largest share of funding available to support voluntary organisations in Ribble Valley.
“Our housing benefit staff are able to offer comprehensive help and advice to housing benefit claimants on universal credit.”
Nigel Evans MP can be contacted by post at 9 Railway View, Clitheroe, BB7 2HA, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org