A senior safeguarding official asked health and wellbeing chiefs today whether Brighton and Hove was ready for the introduction of “universal credit”.
Graham Bartlett, the independent chair of the Brighton and Hove Safeguarding Adults Board, asked: “Universal credit is set to be rolled out across the city shortly.
“As chair of the safeguarding adults board I am particularly concerned about those adults with care and support needs who may need additional help to deal with these changes.
“The safeguarding board was briefed and while there is some assurance that adults with care and support needs will be helped during this time, there remain concerns about the changes and potential safeguarding risks arising from this.
“We are committed to sharing our concerns with the Health and Wellbeing Board and ask if the board feels that the city is ready to deal with these changes, especially for the most vulnerable.”
Councillor Dan Yates, who chairs the Brighton and Hove Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “A risk analysis identified a number of cohorts who may be at particular risk in trying to maintain universal credit claims.
“They include rough sleepers, people affected by domestic violence, people with mental health issues and people with substance misuse issues.
“An issue has also been identified with people who struggle to attend work capability assessments in Lewes which is leading in some cases to benefits being stopped or sanctions being applied.
“Work is in place to support these cohorts including working with the local Jobcentre Plus so, with appropriate permissions from the claimant, information can be shared between organisations to make sure appropriate support is in place.
“In answer to the question is the city ready – the city, and by this we include all bodies, especially our community and voluntary sector agencies, are working together, have prepared but do not underestimate the challenges that all organisations will face in trying to deal with the introduction of universal credit.
“However, the biggest challenge will be borne by the most vulnerable claimants.”
He had had concerns about the ability of claimants to get free prescriptions while waiting for their claim to be processed.
They did not need to wait until they received their first payment, Councillor Yates said.
He added: “We have been working with welfare advice bodies to make sure this is understood and this information is shared.”