A decision by Derbyshire County Council to stop funding a specialist advice service for unemployed people has been slammed.
The Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre (DUWC) received a grant of more than £41,000 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.
But the funding from the county council will come to an end on March 31.
Colin Hampton, co-ordinator of the centres for the past 33 years, said: “DUWC, irrespective of who is in government, gives a voice to those who come to seek our help.
“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.
“This is not the first time the Conservatives have wiped out our grant aid. 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.”
According to the DUWC, thousands of Derbyshire residents use the service, which has offices throughout the county.
It also comes at a time when the centres are dealing with the full digital roll out of universal credit.
Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins said: “The Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre has been instrumental in ensuring people affected by this government’s disastrous welfare reforms have the support they need to challenge unfair decisions. Cutting the funds for this service when universal credit is being rolled out is a particularly short-sighted move that could leave thousands of Derbyshire residents without access to advice and support.
“This will also have an adverse effect on disabled claimants. Figures I obtained recently revealed that over 180,000 people across the UK have lost disability payments because of cruel Tory benefit reforms. Colin and his team of dedicated volunteers have helped overturn hundreds of incorrect decisions, ensuring the most vulnerable people in Derbyshire continue to receive the support and funds they need.
“The cuts to the centre seem like a vindictive attempt by the Tory-run council to prevent claimants getting the advice they need, and will result in less money in the Derbyshire economy.”
A Derbyshire County Council spokesman said: “An agreement by the council to cover the core costs of the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre, as well as providing funding for the work it does around welfare rights and benefits appeals, finishes at the end of March this year.
“While the council is grateful for the work carried out at the centre, it has decided not to renew this funding agreement after March 31, and workers at the centre were aware this funding was due to end on this date. We acknowledge the importance of this work and continue to invest more than £4million in providing advice and financial inclusion work across the county, including Citizens Advice in around 100 GP surgeries, children’s centres and other venues, and we’ll soon be offering a wide range of welfare, financial and other advice services from new wellness hubs from April this year.
“Due to challenges facing our budget, we must look to do things differently and more efficiently, and we’ll be looking to take a different approach to commissioning this type of service in the future so they reach more people in all areas of the county.”