I was pleased to see the recent news that unemployment in Wales had fallen between April and June, meaning that there are now more people in employment in Wales than at any time since 1975, and crucially, 31,000 more people are in work compared to last year. This is, of course, hugely positive news for Wales’ economy and it is encouraging to see labour figures steadily on the rise. This positive news was, however, offset by the Resolution Foundations’ research that showed that typical households are being squeezed through a combination of a slow growth in wages and a rising cost of living, which is having a hugely detrimental effect on working families.
Universal Credit is set to be fully rolled out in Rhondda Cynon Taf by the UK Government in November and I remain extremely concerned by the impact that it will have on residents and families across the County Borough. In preparation, I am organising an event in September that will bring together a whole range of key local organisations, such as social housing providers, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Resilient Families, food banks and Homelessness organisations, as well as local Councillors and prominent social think-tanks like the Bevan Foundation. The aim of this event will be to ensure that we are as prepared as possible for the roll-out and are aware of the major challenges that we are likely to encounter, especially during the initial period, and to help us inform our approach as much as possible, we have also invited colleagues from Neath Port Talbot CBC to share their experiences of dealing with the rollout.
The many issues with Universal Credit are well documented - particularly in terms of the delays - with over 25% having to wait more than 6 weeks to receive payments because of errors, as well as the over 33% who have faced delays through issues in evidencing claims. This is clearly unacceptable and reinforces my concerns to the reforms. I fully believe that the fundamental issues should be addressed and rectified before the Government proceeds with the full rollout. We are conscious of the issues presented by the rollout in other areas and the Council will do its utmost to support any residents experiencing difficulties with their claims.