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Aug 15 2013

Harrow steps up its support for people affected by welfare reform

harrow_council_logoPeople worried about the new welfare reforms can get face to face support from the Harrow Citizens Advice Bureau (HCAB) starting next month.

Harrow Council has stepped up its support for the service by funding the drop in sessions at Civic 5 in Station Road which will start from Tuesday 10 September. They are in addition to the existing telephone and email service offered by HCAB. The Council has acted in response to a wave of uncertainly about the impact on household incomes by a range of measures being introduced by the Government.

They include a reduction in council tax benefit, housing benefit reductions for spare rooms and an overall benefit cap limiting the total amount received in benefits per week. The Government is also moving to an online claims process which means that people without computers or computer skills will find it harder to apply.

In a report out this week, the Local Government Association has warned that less than a quarter of welfare recipients will be in a position to mitigate reductions in benefit payments by funding work or moving to cheaper accommodation in the face of a shortage of jobs and affordable homes.

While the HCAB service will still offer advice on matters including divorce and consumer problems, calls about benefits and debt already makes up 65% of telephone traffic. That percentage is expected to increase in the coming months.

As a consequence, Harrow Council has been warning its residents, who are struggling to make ends meet, to avoid using payday loan companies. Instead, it recommends those in need of funds to first seek advice and, if a loan is essential, to consider joining their local Credit Union – M for Money – a non for profit cooperative which caps interest rates and has a strict criteria for lending money.

Thaya Idaikkadar, Council Leader and Portfolio Member for Finance, said: “Harrow Council is providing extra support to some of our most vulnerable residents who are facing very difficult economic times. We are seeing big changes to the welfare system and, while the merits of the changes are debateable, we must help people to understand the changes and how they can claim the benefit they are entitled to. We strongly advise our residents to seek the free support of HCAB and not be tempted to use unscrupulous payday loan companies for a short term fix that can lead to devastating consequences.”

Jill Harrison, Chief Executive of Harrow Citizens Advice Bureau, said: “We are so pleased that the council has found additional funding to support the re-opening of face to face advice services in Harrow. Although our telephone services have been well used over the last six months, we are aware that telephone advice does not suit everyone.”

Currently those wishing to use the HCAB services can do so by telephone on 020 8427 9477 on:

  • Mondays: 1.30pm – 4pm
  • Tuesdays: 9.45am – 12noon and 1.30pm – 3.30pm
  • Thursdays: 9.45am – 12noon and 1.30pm – 3.30pm

In addition, from 10 September, face to face drop in session will be available at Civic 5, Civic Centre on:

  • Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings from 9.45am to 1pm.
  • the second Saturday of each month from 9.30am-11.30am for people who cannot come in the week (e.g. people in work)
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