The Conservative administration at the Derbyshire County Council have written to the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres (DUWC) informing them of their decision to cease funding the long running advice centres’ network.
The decision comes into effect on March 31st 2018.
The Centres had received a core grant of £41,769 annually and a further £50,000 from Public Health to carry out tribunal representation work for people challenging decisions by the Department for Work and Pensions regarding benefit reductions and withdrawals. This work arises from Citizens Advice in health related settings.
The DCC cut amounts to about one third of the Centres budget.
The Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres were established in 1983 and have been a high profile organisation helping people through the upheaval of industrial change and the many welfare reforms enacted by all Governments since that time.
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.
Over the years DUWC have helped workers made redundant at the collieries as well as major employers in the area such as Bi-waters, GKN Sheepbridge, Bryan Donkin and Coalite.
These cuts come at a time when the workload of the Centres is rising with the full digital roll out of Universal Credit. The new benefit will affect millions of people in and out of work. It requires people to both make and manage their claim on-line.
DUWC bring over £4 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. This money goes to some the poorest people in the community.
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.
‘DUWC, irrespective of who is in government, gives a voice to those who come to seek our help.’ said Colin Hampton Co-ordinator of the Centres for the past 33 years ‘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.’
The County Council indicated that the cut is part of a wider shake up of how they intend to move forward with their ‘financial inclusion’ agenda. The Council’s budget, and that of Public Health, will be reduced and the Authority is looking ‘to explore new ways of delivering and commissioning services to meet the needs of our residents’.
‘This is not the first time the Conservatives have wiped out our grant aid’ said Colin Hampton ‘However, they cannot destroy us. The Centres have many funding streams and even more supporters. We will be embarking on a massive fundraising campaign to bridge the gap left by the Council’s cynical move.’
DUWC receive referrals from many organisations in North Derbyshire and the Council’s decision has been met with astonishment and disbelief. Cancer Charities, Mental Health groups as well as Forces charities all refer people to the Chesterfield based advice organisation for help with benefits.
‘Derbyshire Law Centre and Housing Support workers use our services to help people retain their tenancies’ explained Colin Hampton ‘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 County Council’s decision does not put them in a favourable light’ Colin went on to say.
DUWC’s services will continue from their three main offices in Chesterfield, Shirebrook and Alfreton but the Trustees of the organisation will now have to review the extensive outreach work that takes place throughout north and east Derbyshire.
Anyone wishing to help the organisation continue its important work should ring 01246 231441.