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New figures show real impact of benefit cuts on Renfrewshire residents

renfrewshire council logo .JPG

New figures show real impact of benefit cuts on Renfrewshire residents

New figures reveal that Renfrewshire residents are struggling to cope with the UK Government’s benefit cuts, with more than 600 local people receiving help from local food banks since the ‘Bedroom Tax’ was introduced in April.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGA total of 601 people were supported by food banks between April and June – while the figure for the first three months of 2013 was 228 people.

And Discretionary Housing Payment awards – a crucial fund to help residents who are struggling to meet their housing costs – are also up for April, May and June compared to the same time last year.

The council has given out a total of 1,094 Crisis Grants since April 1 and an additional 800 council households have fallen into rent arrears since the Under Occupancy Rule was introduced.

Councillor Mike Holmes, Renfrewshire Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “We warned the UK Government when their ‘Bedroom Tax’ was looming that many communities were already pushed to breaking point and would struggle to cope.

“Three months on and we can now see the harsh reality. More people need help from food banks to feed their families, more people are struggling to meet their housing costs, and more people are falling into arrears.

“Figures from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research say that as part of the overall programme of benefit cuts Renfrewshire will eventually lose £60m a year. That’s a staggering amount of money.

“We’re doing all we can to support our hard-pressed residents through these difficult cuts and dealing with welfare reform is one of this council’s top priorities.

“We will not evict our tenants who fall into arrears as a direct result of the ‘bedroom tax’ as long as they continue to work with us. And on top of that our tenants can also now apply to have their homes reclassified to stop them being penalised by the ‘bedroom tax’ for having a bedroom that can’t be used because of disability or medical reasons.

“We’re also increasing capacity of our Customer Contact Centre to cope with residents increased need for advice. And we’ve established a 45-strong team to help alleviate the problems caused by the changes to housing benefit, disability living allowance, debt and legal problems and employability issues.

“On top of that we will continue with our £4.5m Invest in Renfrewshire programme to boost our economy and create job opportunities for local people.”

The number of council tenants facing the Under Occupancy Rule at the end of March who were in rent arrears was 587. The number of tenants affected by Under Occupancy and in arrears has risen to 1,387 at the end of June. So 800 of our tenants affected by ‘bedroom tax’ have fallen into arrears since the start of April.

The council gave out 613 Discretionary Housing Payments during April, May and June 2013, compared to 155 for the same period in 2012.

Councillor Holmes added: “Unfortunately we’re still facing years of UK Government benefit cuts. It plans to slash its spend on DLA by 20%; will continue with its freeze on Child Benefit; will replace six key benefits with a new benefit called Universal Credit; and will continue to move claimants off Incapacity Benefit onto the new Employment Support Allowance – so we may only be seeing a glimpse of what’s to come in terms of people needing help.

“The reality for Renfrewshire is that as local people continue to struggle, the Government is taking £60m out of the pockets of the area’s poorest families and that, quite frankly, is shameful.

“I’d urge anyone who is worried about the benefit changes and struggling to cope to please call our help line for support.”

The Scottish Government contribution to Renfrewshire’s DHP fund for 2012/13 was £251,714. Renfrewshire council Council topped up the fund by £150,000.

For more information on benefit changes, including advice and support, please call our benefit change helpline on 0300 300 0288 or visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/benefitchanges

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Residents have their say at Ferguslie Park event

Residents have their say at Ferguslie Park event

Community activists from Ferguslie Park got the chance to have their say on issues affecting the area at a special event run by council and police staff.

The event offered residents a platform to find out more about community safety work in the area, and speak to those delivering it.

Earlier this year, council staff joined forces with local police to conduct a series of interviews among Ferguslie Park residents, seeking their opinions on community safety in the area, and on what they wanted to see from the authorities.

Pic from event shows Divisional Commander Alan Speirs. Pic credit: Roy McKeag.

The event was used to feed back the results of that, with key findings being that residents want more visible patrols and better facilities for young people.

Speakers on the night included Alan McNiven, chief executive of Engage Renfrewshire, the area’s voluntary sector partnership, and police Divisional Commander Alan Speirs.

Topics covered included an overview on how the police and council anti-social behaviour staff work in partnership on community safety issues.

In total, 17 organisations were represented, including Victim Support, Fire and Rescue Scotland and the council’s trading standards and welfare reform advice teams.

Including partners, around 60 people attended the event, held in the hospitality suite at St Mirren Park.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, said: “The issues affecting Ferguslie Park have been well publicised over the years.

“But something that comes across at events like this is the strong sense of community that exists in the area.

“We want to celebrate the work of those who are involved in that community and work with them to help make the best of the area.

“I would like to thank all who took part in what turned out to be an interesting discussion, and look forward to putting the suggestions they made into action.”

Inspector Kenny Morrison, based at Ferguslie Park police office, added: “We held this event to find out more about what people in the area want from us.

“What we plan to do now is work with them to put that into practice.

“The message I would send out to people is that we are here to help. But we can only do that if people are willing to get in touch to report issues to us.”

Residents can contact Police Scotland by calling 101, or Renfrewshire Council Community Safety Services on 0300 300 0380.

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Make the most of your money with Renfrewshire Money Week

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A week of events is being held to help
Renfrewshire residents make the most of their money

 

 

Renfrewshire Money Week, 7 – 11 November, will include advice sessions, training events and workshop activities all designed to help people manage their finances.
The events will cover everything from budgeting properly for the cost of living and building up savings to knowing what benefits are available and knowing who can help if people run into financial difficulties or just need some advice.

Events will include:

  • Make the Most of Your Money Day, Paisley Town Hall, Wednesday 9 November. This event is open to everyone and will include stalls and sessions on a range of topics including claiming benefits, welfare reform, energy efficiency, claiming benefits and the rising cost of fuel bills.
  •  The Renfrewshire Money Bus will visit locations across Renfrewshire throughout the week with information and resources on issues such as benefits, debt, housing costs, handling your fuel bills, energy efficiency, and managing your money.
  • Children and Families Health Fair, Johnstone Town Hall, Friday 11 November. There will be fun activities for children and information for parents and grandparents on keeping children Healthy and Active, budgeting with a family and Healthy Start benefits.
  • Be Benefit Wise sessions for older people run by Reaching Older Adults in Renfrewshire (ROAR). A Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau income adviser will run benefit checks to make sure people are receiving the full income they are entitled to, as well as providing advice and help filling in benefit claim forms.
  • Managing Money as a Student, Reid Kerr College, Tuesday 8 November. Local money advice agencies team up with Reid Kerr College to offer advice on student budgeting, managing overdrafts and shopping around for a student bank account.

Renfrewshire Council Leader Brian Lawson said: “There’s never been a more important time to make the most of your money.

Whether we’re young or old, in work or not, and whatever state our finances are in we all need to make sure we know how to make it go as far as possible.

“This will be the third Renfrewshire Money Week and it’s proved really popular in the past but this year in particular more people are facing financial difficulties.

“There are events for everyone providing a huge range of information and some great resources to help people. We’re even taking support out directly to communities with the Renfrewshire Money Bus.”

A range of organisations are taking part in Renfrewshire Money Week including Advice Works, Education Scotland, Energy Saving Scotland advice centre, Job Centre Plus, the Money Advice Service, Reid Kerr College, Renfrewshire Council, Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau, Renfrewshire Community Health Partnership and Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union.

For full details of all the events taking place pick up a programme for any Renfrewshire Council building or go to

www.renfrewshire.gov.uk

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Another chance to comment on town centre plans

Paisley Abbey

Another chance to comment on town centre plans

Renfrewshire residents and businesses are getting another opportunity to have their say on plans to improve the environment of Paisley town centre.

Following the successful exhibition held recently in the WRVS Cafe in Causeyside Street, plans will be displayed in the Piazza Shopping Centre for three days.

The exhibition will display proposals to improve parking, pavements, streetlighting and preserve the architectural heritage of the Causeyside area. The exhibition will take place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 8-10 June and will show draft proposals prepared by consultants Ironside Farrar for Renfrewshire Council after the council successfully secured £1.5million from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).

Representatives from Renfrewshire Council and Ironside Farrar will be available at the exhibition each day from 8am to 5pm to provide information and answer questions.

Councillor Iain Nicolson, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Planning and Economic Development Policy Board said “This exhibition is providing people with another opportunity to comment on the draft plans and will ensure that a full consultation process has been carried out prior to the designs being finalised. Staff will be on hand at the exhibition to answer questions and I would encourage people to go along and give us their views. This is a key project which will regenerate the historic core of Paisley Town Centre and we want to get it right – we need the input from the community and this exhibition gives people another chance to contribute.”

The detailed proposals include wider pavements, more crossing points, on street parking, and new lighting and street furniture.

It’s hoped that a planning application for the programme will be submitted later this year with work potentially starting in the Spring of 2012.

The Paisley Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and Renfrewshire Council. Focused on the Causeyside area of the Paisley Town Centre Conservation Area, the THI project aims to support investment in the regeneration of Paisley town centre.

www.renfrewshire.gov.uk