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Benefits switch will hit vulnerable, warn charities

Fears people with learning disabilities will struggle to manage their finances after rollout of Universal Credit

10 August, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Jean Willson, who runs Centre 404 in Camden Road

CHARITY leaders have warned that the planned rollout of Universal Credit in the borough will be “absolutely horrendous” for people with learning disabilities.

Jean Willson, who runs Centre 404 in Camden Road, said she was concerned about how the changes to the benefits system will affect the most vulnerable in society.

The new system will see all benefits lumped together into a single monthly payment and applications can only be made online.

The Universal Credit system was introduced in the borough for the majority of new claim­ants in June and a full rollout is expected by 2023.

Ms Willson, whose centre offers support to those with learning disabilities, said: “I’m very concerned. For many people with learning disabilities they are not literate and only 1 per cent are computer literate. The new system is a discriminatory practice, we feel.”

She added that she can “foresee people going into terrible debt and losing their homes”.

“The one payment each month will be absolutely horrendous. Although we have been reassured there will be special arrangements made, we don’t believe it. My mind boggles about how the most vulnerable are going to live,” said Ms Willson.

Virginia Bovell, who lives off Blackstock Road and is a family carer representative for the Islington Learning Disability Partnership Board, also said she was worried about the changes.

She said: “With a wholesale transfer into a new system it’s going to be frightening and baffling. Currently, with the Disability Living Allowance you’re given hard copies to fill in. You can go away for an hour and come back later to it and do it over a few days.

“The bureaucracy is going to be impossible. I don’t understand why we can’t download the form and do it bit by bit.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions, the government body behind the changes, said: “Support is available for people with learning disabilities making a Universal Credit claim, including face-to-face guidance and the Universal Credit helpline.

“For anyone unable to manage their own affairs, support workers or appointees can make a claim on their behalf.”

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