Council votes to end grant to unemployed workers centres in Derbyshire

North East Derbyshire District Council has been slammed as uncaring after it voted to end its grant to Unemployed Workers Centres.

Monday, 16th September 2019, 1:29 pm
Colin Hampton with the 2018 Outstanding Contribution to the Voluntary Sector Award outside Chesterfield HQ.

A decision was made at a council cabinet meeting that the long standing financial support from the council to the Advice Centre would end on March 31 2020.

North East Derbyshire District Council (NEDDC) have grant aided the DUWC since 1987. Advice workers and volunteers have helped people made redundant from the pit closures, Renishaw Foundry, Avenue Plant, Biwater Pipes and the many affected by the massive industrial changes over the past 30 years.

A council spokesman said the decision was about "re-aligning limited resources, in order to reach more groups within the district."

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Colin Hampton with the 2018 Outstanding Contribution to the Voluntary Sector Award outside Chesterfield HQ.

Colin Hampton the Co-ordinator of DUWC since 1985 said the Conservative council elected in May had wasted little time in showing the uncaring nature of the administration,

He said: "The Tory District Council wrote to me saying that they had new priorities.

"It is obvious that the low paid, the sick, the disabled, and those struggling with Universal Credit are not top of their list.

"Our organisation is helping 147 residents of North East Derbyshire at Appeals Tribunals that may not come to court until well into next year.

Advice is given throughout NE Derbyshire.

"Nothing in the Council’s correspondence gives a passing thought to the plight of the people we are working with."

More recently, DUWC have helped people cope with the many benefits and tax credit changes as well providing legal help and representation at tribunals where adverse decisions are challenged.

Thousands of Derbyshire residents use the service, which has offices throughout the county and helps people negotiate the complexities of the benefit system and supports people to claim the benefits to which they are entitled. In North East Derbyshire provision can be accessed in Eckington, Grassmoor, Clay Cross, North Wingfield as well as at the main Centres in Chesterfield, Shirebrook and Alfreton. Chesterfield Borough, Bolsover and Amber Valley Councils continue to give grant support.

DUWC bring over £5 million into the county through lump sum awards and additional weekly payments of benefits and tax credits arising out of Tribunals and benefits take-up work.

The money goes to some of the poorest people in the community, the low paid and insecure workers as well as the sick and the disabled.

The Centre’s social policy work has often hit the headlines as the organisation has raised concerns about the effects of Government Policy on those out of work, sick, disabled or in precarious employment.

Representatives of the DUWC have hit out at what they describe as a callous and political decision.

Colin Hampton added: "DUWC, irrespective of who is in government, gives a voice to those who come to seek our help.’

"You would think those in power would welcome this feedback but it appears that this authority would rather not hear what they have to say."

DUWC receive referrals from many organisations in Derbyshire. Cancer Charities, Mental Health groups as well as Forces charities all refer people to the DUWC for help with benefits. Pensioners are helped through support with Attendance Allowance, Pension Credit and signposting to welfare organisations.

Andrew Parkes Welfare Rights advice worker at DUWC said: "Derbyshire Law Centre and Housing Support workers use our services to help people retain their tenancies’ and many people are signposted to us by the Jobcentre itself.

"At a time of increasing public concern over the disgraceful treatment of vulnerable and powerless people, the North East Derbyshire District Council’s decision does not put them in a favourable light."

"The NEDDC cut comes on top of the decision by the Tory County Council to withdraw over £90,000 in grants to the Centre.

"There cannot be many people in parts of North East Derbyshire that have not had friend or family needing help from DUWC with redundancy, disability, or benefits and tax credit claims. I hope the Tory Council quickly realise the damage they are doing and reverse this decision.’ Colin concluded by saying.

"This small minded and vindictive decision will not destroy us. However, it will affect the accessibility of services in North East Derbyshire District. We urge our supporters to rally to our cause."

DUWC’s services will continue from their three main offices but the Trustees of the organisation will now have to review the extensive outreach work that takes place throughout the District in the coming year. Anyone wishing to help or needing help from the organisation should ring 01246 231441.

A spokesman for the council said:

"NEDDC can confirm that it’s contribution to DUWC will end on 31st March 2020.

"The Council has reviewed and re-aligned it’s budget for grants to outside bodies in light of the emerging priorities identified in its 2019-23 Council Plan which aim to provide more organisations with the opportunity to make a positive difference for residents and the environment.

"This includes the establishment of a Community Action Grants Fund open to local constituted groups.

"Despite the challenging financial environment for local government, the Council has maintained the budget allocation whilst broadening the scope of the activity that will be supported.

"The Council remains committed to providing significant investment in advice agencies and voluntary sector infrastructure support bodies, but following consideration of alternative provision across the area on issues such as Welfare Rights, it was agreed not to prioritise support for DUWC from April 2020.

Councillor Alex Dale, Deputy Leader of North East Derbyshire District Council, added: “I want to be clear that we are not reducing the amount of funding the council gives towards voluntary and community groups and projects.

"This is about re-aligning our limited resources, in order to reach more groups within the District and help support them and our communities in a different way than before."