Cuts plan is a ‘double blow for the poor’, says Unison chief

CUTTING council help for benefit claimants at a time of huge welfare reform is a double blow for the poor.

That is the view of Kirklees Unison chief Paul Holmes, who attacked plans to slash funding for the Benefits Advice Service by 2016/17.

As The Press reported last week, its annual £698,000 pot will disappear in a draft three-year council budget.

The service helps with benefits and offers representation at tribunals, home visits, training and form-filling.

Such advice could be needed by any Kirklees resident if their job or other circumstances were to suddenly change. Public sector union boss Mr Holmes said disabled people make up a big chunk of the 5,000 or so people helped every year.

The cuts come at a time when the government is planning radical welfare changes, including universal credit.

Kirklees faces having to make savings of £69m over the next three years to balance the books.

Mr Holmes said: “How can the council possibly equate cuts to this service with the increasing need for advice as the Government’s welfare cuts kick in? The service is seen nationally as a flagship service leading the way on representing people in need and with disabilities.

“It gives people access to their rights. Any cut will see detriment to the disabled and a fall in their living standards.”

He added the service last year helped clients gain £21m which was mainly spent locally.

“It helps people remain in their homes, helps families provide for themselves and promotes independent living,” Mr Holmes said.

“Not only does this service help those most affected by austerity, but the monetary gains quite clearly contribute to the health of the local economy.

“This service shouldn’t be cut. We should help those in need, not remove services from them.”

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