Here is a summary of the casework my team and I have supported residents with for February. The chart reflects new requests for help and not the ongoing cases started before February.
Social security and pensions 29%
Housing and planning 18%
Local government 8%
Crime, law, justice and rights – 6%
Health services and medicine – 6%
Education – 6%
Supporting constituents with welfare benefit issues is consistently around a third of the casework we receive, and mainly includes Tax Credits, Personal Independence Payments, and Employment and Support Allowance. We have a high success rate on the cases we take to appeal, which shows how poor the initial decision making on many benefit decisions is, putting vulnerable people through unnecessary stress. One case we managed to have overturned in February was a PIP case for a disabled constituent who was placed into the higher group of support after we were able to supply medical evidence in support of the claim.
Other people we have helped include:
- A former steelworker with a fledgling business whose Universal Credit was sanctioned for ‘non-attendance of an appointment’ that was actually never made. The sanction threatened the continuation of the business but after we appealed, the sanction was reversed and a backdated payment made.
- Elderly constituents who discovered that a major bank still had a charge on their property for a secured loan that had been paid off decades ago. We worked with the Financial Ombudsman Service to have the charge removed and the land registry records updated.
Some ongoing issues we are dealing with include an issue with Child Arrangement Orders and the Benefit Cap. Under a court order when children are placed with a family member, the host family can be hit by the benefit cap if they already have dependent children of their own. The alternative for the children subject to these court orders is for them to end up in care, separated from family members and costing the system a lot more than if they were living with family members and exempt from the benefit cap.
Next month changes to pension and pension credit are going to leave some of the poorest pensioners massively out of pocket. The government have increased the State Pension Rate by 3% starting in April, but the Pension Credit Guarantee has only increased by 2.3%. This means that some pensioners are being pushed over the income threshold for the Pension Credit guarantee, even just by a few pennies. Pension Credit is a ‘passporting’ benefit which opens up entitlement to other support like Council Tax Support and Mortgage Interest Payments. People affected by this change will see all that support immediately withdrawn. One constituent has had a £4 per week pension increase but lost all of the support that helped cover their mortgage. By not uprating pension credit by the same amount, a lot of pensioners are now going to have significant extra costs to meet from their small pension income.
Crime and anti-social behaviour complaints are still high and I continue to liaise with Cleveland Police to ensure the resources available are being targeted where they are needed. With the loss of £40 million in government funding and over 500 officers, getting the government to commit the extra money needed for neighbourhood policing is the only way this will be fully addressed. The Prime Minister dismissed my demand recently but I will be keeping the pressure on.
If you need my help with an issue, please do not hesitate to get in touch with my office on the details below.
Office address: 10 Milbank Terrace, Redcar, TS10 1ED