04
August
2014
|
00:00
Europe/London

Progress made on tackling poverty in Leeds


People in Leeds who are living on the breadline are being better supported to find a way out of poverty thanks to a range of new measures introduced by Leeds City Council.



Poverty is the biggest challenge that Leeds is facing, and a year after the changes to the welfare system were introduced, more people are now in rent and council tax arrears than ever before. Nearly 50% of those affected by the under-occupancy charges were behind on their rent at the end of the first year, compared to 27% the previous year.



In order to tackle poverty across the city, the council introduced the Citizens@Leeds programme last November and since then has introduced a host of changes to help people get out of poverty.



The council is introducing changes to help the people of Leeds get the advice and support they need to get out of debt and progress is being made to integrate services to make accessing this much needed advice and support easier.



Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said:

“We are now seeing the effects of the welfare changes and what a terrible impact they are having on many of our citizens, our experience is showing that the bedroom tax just isn’t working.



“Most people on benefits just need the right kind of support and advice to help them improve their employment chances and get out of poverty.



“In Leeds we are committed to helping local people which is why we have put this raft of measures in place to help tackle all of the issues surrounding poverty and deprivation.



“By focusing our services on the people who need it most we can start to improve the lives and futures of people who find themselves living on the breadline.”



Over the past year the council has introduced a range of measures to tackle poverty and deprivation, especially amongst those affected by the government’s welfare changes which were introduced last year.



The council is already using the Council Tax Support scheme and Discretionary Housing Payments to support vulnerable families and people with significant disabilities who are affected by the welfare reforms.



As part of the new measures the council has been working on three initiatives which focus on tackling financial hardship amongst specific groups of people, which are:

• Tenants in multi-story flats who are affected by the under-occupancy rules;

• Young people who are leaving care; and

• Tenants who are applying for ‘discretionary housing payments’.



Through these pilots key workers work closely with the tenants or young people to help put together the right package of support to help improve their financial situation, and where appropriate help improve their employment prospects.



The ‘multi-storey flats initiative’ saw 155 tenants signing up for the scheme and over 600 support activities arranged, whilst the ‘care leavers pilot’ helped 84 young people, who may otherwise have been unable to access the benefits and support available to them. Different levels of support are offered to tenants who apply for discretionary housing payments, depending on their levels of debt – ranging from information about debt advice agencies, to an award of discretionary housing payments on the condition that they take steps to address their debt issues. All 30 tenants who were awarded the conditional payments agreed to engage with debt support agencies.



Much work has also been taking place to support the Leeds City Credit Union to develop its services and accessibility as a more affordable borrowing option for citizens. The council has been helping to promote the credit union, and supported the opening of a new loan shop.



Earlier this year the council launched a new advice service on the back of unprecedented high demand for support and advice in the city. The council awarded the three year contract to a consortium of Leeds advice agencies, including Leeds CAB, Chapeltown CAB, and Better Leeds Communities which will be known as Leeds Advice Consortium.



The consortium brings together services covering a range of issues including; welfare benefits, debt, housing, employment, consumer affairs, utilities and immigration/asylum, but with a key focus on financial help.



ENDS

For media enquiries, please contact:

Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713

Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk