Liverpool City Council is at the forefront of responding to the challenges imposed by the austerity policies of this and the previous government.
The Mayor, Joe Anderson, initially created a strategy group to work out what the response needed to concentrate upon and from that the Action Group on Fairness and Tackling Poverty was devised.
The Group is chaired by Bishop Paul Bayes, assisted by Councillor Jane Corbett, one of the members of the Liverpool City Council Executive. The Group has identified a list of basic needs comprising:-
- Housing (Home)
- Income Maximisation
- Budgeting Support
- Access to Affordable Finance
- Digital Access
- Access to Justice
The Council officers were tasked by the Group to assess the cumulative impact of the Welfare Reforms on the people of Liverpool. The interim report which was published on 10th March 2017 makes uncomfortable reading. It shows the changes to working age benefits since 2010 have affected around 55,000 households (one in four) – with the long term sick and disabled, children and women disproportionately hit.
The lower Benefit Cap affects 743 families – 80 percent of them single parent households – resulting in an average loss of income of £42.67 per family each week.
The headlines include:
- 3,400 households with long term sick and disabled residents have been affected by the Under Occupation Penalty (Bedroom Tax)
- Families with children have been hit by a freeze in child benefit, reductions in Housing Benefit rates in the private sector, the Under Occupation Penalty and the Benefit Cap
- Younger people aged 16-29 accounting for almost 35 percent of applications for the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme, which makes emergency payments for people in crisis
- Single private tenants aged 25-35 have seen a cut of around £34 per week in their Housing Benefit
- Women account for 60 percent of those affected by a cut in Council Tax Support and 65 percent of those hit by the Under Occupation Penalty (Bedroom Tax)
Director Chris Topping, who chairs the Liverpool Law Society Access to Justice Committee, was on the panel at the launch of the report at St Georges Hall. He said
“The report makes shocking reading and it strikes me that we need to remember what we have lost. The demolition and destruction of the welfare state is going ahead rapidly. Legal Aid was one of the pillars of the welfare state back in 1948 and there has perhaps never been a time when access to justice was more keenly needed than now.”
In the Jackson Canter Group we are committed to making a difference through our Foundation. One of the pillars of the foundation is to ensure that we are supporting those charities who provide Access to Justice in an era when Legal Aid has been destroyed. We have a responsibility to be involved in the response to make sure that those in our society who are suffering the brunt of these cuts have access to the legal advice they need.