MPs fear benefit changes will affect vulnerable and those with mental health issues
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
Vulnerable people and those facing mental health difficulties in Gwynedd and Anglesey could lose out on “lifeline” support amid benefit changes, a charity and two MPs fear.
Arfon MP Hywel Williams and Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts warn the people in Gwynedd could be “disproportionally affected” amid legacy benefit reforms.
It comes as the Department for Work and Pensions moves claimants from schemes like ESA to Universal Credit.
The changes came in on May 9 and require claimants to apply within three months or face benefits being stopped.
The MPs fear the vulnerable could be left without means to pay for rent, food or keep up with energy bills.
They cite House of Commons library figures showing 5,823 households in Gwynedd still in receipt of legacy benefits and tax credits – 2,837 in Dwyfor Meirionnydd and 2,986 in Arfon – whilst 41% of benefit claimants in Wales have yet to move to UC.
Mental health charity MIND Cymru backed the views, saying the incomes of people in Ynys Mon and Gwynedd, including those with mental health problems, learning disabilities and dementia, were “at risk”.
Simon Jones, Mind Cymru’s head of policy, said: “The DWP’s managed migration plans could leave people with mental health problems with no income.
“Those too unwell to engage with the DWP could be left unable to pay their rent, buy food, or pay their rising energy bills.
“During a cost-of-living crisis, this could put the entire incomes of people in Ynys Mon and Gwynedd with mental health problems, learning disabilities and dementia at risk. This is completely unacceptable.
“The DWP should halt this process, until they can guarantee they will not stop anyone’s old benefits until they have successfully made a claim to Universal Credit.
“The DWP must also take responsibility for supporting people through a complicated system that its own research has shown to be difficult to navigate. As things stand, the managed migration process is too dangerous to continue.”
In a joint statement, the MPs said that legacy benefits such as ESA were a “lifeline to our most vulnerable constituents”.
“Many of these people are vulnerable and suffer from poor mental and physical health,” they said.
“Some may be too unwell to fill in forms or not understand the process. For them, continuity of financial support is vital.
“Putting their incomes at risk by setting arbitrary deadlines and expecting them to process complicated information is unreasonable.
“Not everyone has access to the internet to register a claim whilst many claimants with long term health needs require ongoing support.
They called on the DWP to provide claimants “targeted support” and not to set “unreasonable deadlines”.
A DWP spokesperson said over five million people were supported by Universal Credit. “We know work is the best route out of poverty and Universal Credit is a dynamic system which adjusts as people’s earnings change, is more generous overall than the old benefits, and simplifies our safety net for those who cannot work,” they said.
“Roughly 1.4 million people on legacy benefits would be an average of around £220 a month better off on Universal Credit, with top up payments available for eligible claimants whose Universal Credit entitlement is less.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.