Category Archives: Wandsworth

Universal Credit Roll Out Must Stop

The Universal Credit roll out has felt like a very slow Tsunami making its way towards Wandsworth. We’ve heard the warnings and with a growing sense of doom, we have seen the result of the switch to Universal Credit in other areas of the country. But the roll out has continued regardless.

Welfare reform on this scale could have had positive benefits with simplifying a complicated system of multiple benefits into one payment. However there are some structural flaws with the system that must be fixed now, before more people suffer because of an administrative change.

We’ve seen Food Bank use and homelessness increase elsewhere. The Trussell Trust – who run 400 foodbanks – have reported a 52% increase in use of the Foodbank in areas with Universal Credit compared to those where it hasn’t yet been rolled out. The charities Mind and Macmillan Cancer Care are amongst many who have raised major concerns about the impact of UC for people with disabilities.

Even the Work and Pensions secretary admits it isn’t working as reported in the Times today (6th October), ‘Ministers are becoming increasingly alarmed about the rollout of universal credit after Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, confirmed privately to colleagues that millions of families would lose £200 a month under the new system. Ms McVey told cabinet colleagues that half of lone parents and about two thirds of working-age couples with children would lose the equivalent of £2,400 a year.’

The problems are: the gap in payments of an average of 5 weeks at the start, compounded by the switch from fortnightly to monthly payments, having to be entirely online and needing IT support to do this, administrative problems and – here’s the real body blow – the resulting benefit is not enough to live on, especially for people with disabilities and their families.

Local voluntary organisations have been working together to lobby the council to be ready for the roll out. I have been going to the on-going meetings between the Job Centres, Wandsworth Council, South West London Law Centre, Foodbank, Citizens Advice Wandsworth, Advising Communities and local charities as a result. But getting the basic data has been a real problem – to measure and be able to prevent increasing debt and homelessness we have to know what the situation is to start with.

The move towards being entirely online for people on low incomes is very hard. The forms need IT literacy, residents living in Wandsworth temporary accommodation do not have broadband become Wandsworth Council (despite ‘temporary’ being usually for many months and sometime for years), they need a good level of English to use. The responsibility for following up on setting up the new account, making and attending appointments and getting in paperwork has changed to being the claimant’s responsibility. Many people have not had this early explained and are losing out. All of these can be resolved – but some claimants need a lot more support in the early stages.

In Wandsworth Food Bank use has increased since the introduction of Universal credit. More people are going to the Legal Advice Centres – the voluntary sector is picking up the pieces of poor policy and a refusal to stop and rethink. Here is the excellent annual report from the Wandsworth Foodbank with more background, stories of impact and recommendations.

An estimated 10% of people on Universal Credit need additional support with different parts of the process like help with IT, form filling and budgeting. But if at the end of the day the money is not enough this isn’t going to solve the fundamental problem of Universal Credit

The roll out of UC in Wandsworth will continue next year to families with more than two children, and this tidal wave will be sweeping across many families who will need extra support. The Council, Job Centres and voluntary organisations must work much more effectively to be able to see what the impact is and where more action needs to be taken.

Better yet, the Government should judge the success of UC by its impact, and make the changes needed – with no gap in payments, fixing the admin problems and reviewing the benefit amounts.

The National Audit Office’s report on UC found that it is not delivering on value for money and they won’t be able to measure whether it is increasing the number of people who are in work – the two key reasons for the switch.

There is more coming – as a new wave of people being ‘migrated’ to Universal Credit is coming, and from April 2019 will also include families with more than 2 children. Change is very urgent.

Its time to stop the roll out and fix the problems.

Sign the petition to Wandsworth Council here: https://www.change.org/p/wandsworth-council-act-now-to-support-local-people-at-risk-of-debt-and-homelessness

Read the Trussell Trust report here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/what-we-do/research-advocacy/universal-credit-and-foodbank-use/

Watch the video: https://labour.org.uk/issues/universalcredit/

July Newsletter

In this month’s local news: please sign the petition about Siward Road nursery closure, some of our June highlights, Wandsworth Welcomes refugees news, latest on Tooting Lodge and the reason behind Hector’s name change (yes, you have to read to the end for this revelation).

Shock closure of Siward Road special needs nursery

The Conservative councillors are threatening to close the only nursery in Wandsworth for children with complex needs. It has was rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted last year, and provides a necessary service for very young children who can be assessed and then either supported to move into mainstream nurseries or to school providing eduction for children with special needs. It is in Earlsfield and has spaces for 16 children, many of whom would find a larger nursery over-whelming or would not be placed in other nurseries.

Budget cuts have been blamed for the need to reduce spending on early years, however the Council is planning to make over £400,000 more cuts than made necessary from a funding change, and Siward Road nursery costs £205,000 per year. The costs of supporting children with complex needs are substantial and this cut is a false economy.

The Council plan to close the nursery this month, but hadn’t told parents or staff. They were not consulted or involved, or able to make any preparations for next term and are very concerned about the future of their children. The list of alternative provisions made available to Labour councillors is not acceptable as most are not able to meet the needs of the children at Siward Road. This is why the nursery plays an important role in Wandsworth’s early years provision and should be valued rather than closed in a rush.

The full committee paper is here (paras 28 – 31).

To support the current and future parents and the future of school, please sign these two petitions before the Council Meeting on July 11th where the final decision will be made:

Support Dr Rosena Allin-Khan’s petition to Save Siward Road

Save Siward Road petition by a former parent

A great summer in Balham and Tooting

We’ve all been going to lots of training sessions as a new term has begun since our election, and we continue do all we can to be the best councillors and local representatives that we can be for the next four years.

Iftar celebration

We’ve also enjoyed going to lots of community events. The Iftar during Ramadan at the Tooting Islamic Centre was a highlight, as so many people from the local community were warmly welcomed to the mosque and treated to a wonderful feast and understood more about the significance of the special month of Ramadan. The month of fasting is an amazing achievement – especially during the hot summer.

Mr Whirly Wines, Fleur, Rosena, Clare and Dee’s of Delight Bakery – celebrating Ritherdon Road

Ritherdon Road street party was bigger and better than ever, and we also enjoyed historic walks on Tooting Common, the open day at Holy Trinity church and a visit up the famous tower which is due to be extensively renovated soon. Ravenstock at Ravenstone School was  a lot of fun, and we’ve been to Safer Neighbourhood, and Tooting Bec and Balham Neighbourhood Forum meetings.

Hector, Rosena, Headteacher Joe Croft and Clare at Ravenstock

Tooting Common public meeting with added synchronised swimming

 

The Tooting MAC advisory group annual public meeting was in the new Lido pavilion with a wonderful backdrop of the synchronised swimmers doing a dry land rehearsal behind the speakers. There was news of crime on the common staying relatively low (mainly parking issues), and progress on the Heritage Lottery

We attended a great meeting with the Tooting History Group on the history of the common

project which is in its final third year. So watch out for some more community events, continuing renovation of the Woodfield Pavilion and the acid grassland areas, and some more information boards to go up and reveal aspects of the common to us – recently there has been scything and walks. There was no mention of plans to cut more trees down, but we remain vigilant.

Do let us know if you are having a meeting that we can come to and play an active role in building our community together.

Do follow us on twitter to see ore of what we are doing in the local community: @clare_f, @hectordenfield, @cllrfleur

Wandsworth Welcomes Refugees – some good news

We have had the great news that more families from Syria have been rescued from refugee camps and welcomed to Wandsworth recently, bring the total number of families to 6. Battersea Deanery of Churches have been able to support the offer of 2 flats for future families as well – and more landlords are always very welcomed. The Home Office pays all costs – not the council. This is a far lower number that our neighbouring councils, but it marks a significant speeding up for families coming and we hope there will be many more. It is the least we can do from our position of safety and as a relatively prosporous council for some of the people in the world who need our support most.

The group of individuals and organisations will be marking Donald Trumps visit to the U with a positive message for Wandsworth on the morning on July 13th – email wandsworthwelcomesrefguees@gmail.com if you can join us.

Tooting Lodge – some good news at last!

Here’s a picture of the day the Lodge had the hoardings taken down. Nice to see it with the sun going down behind it!

Avid readers of this newsletter will have followed urging the developer of the Lodge to make the building water tight and stop deteriorating, and then more recently to remove the ugly hoardings. The hoardings are down and a wire fence is up, but we hope that the developer will remove these in due course. We wait to see what use will be made of the building now that it has been restored and we can see this historic building. It is the gate house of a former very large local house.

Congratulations to Hector Denfield!

Congratulations to Hector who got married in June, and he and his wife have combined their formed names into one new name – so Cllr Hector Wakefield has become Cllr Hector Denfield. We wish both a lifetime of  happiness together.

 

Do contact us:

Next surgery on Wednesday 4th July at 10am at the scout hall on the High Road, opposite Du Cane Court.

We’re happy to meet at another time too.

Email us:

cllr.c.fraser@wandsworth.gov.uk

cllr.f.anderson@wandsworth.gov.uk

cllr.h.wakefield@wandsworth.gov.uk