RESIDENTS on Wrexham’s largest housing estate could be left ‘high and dry’ now support workers face the axe.
Tenancy support workers are set to be made redundant from the end of September unless funding can be secured for them to continue.
It is a prospect which some residents say will leave them without a lifeline – just before the controversial new Universal Credit system of benefits starts.
Universal Credit is a monthly payment which will eventually replace separate payments such as housing benefit, working tax credits, child tax credits and income support. It is due to be rolled out fully in Wrexham in October – but the rollout has not gone well in some of the trial areas.
The tenancy support workers help residents fill out forms, claim benefits, pay rent and bills and give advice on managing financial affairs.
They work through the Caia Park Partnership social enterprise, funded by Wrexham Council and the Welsh Government’s Communities First programme which is coming to an end.
In February Alyn and Deeside AM Carl Sargeant, the Welsh Government’s cabinet secretary for communities and children, announced that the Communities First Programme would be phased out by March 2018.
The programme, designed to help tackle poverty issues, will be replaced with another project in due course, but residents are concerned about what will happen in the meantime.
Bernard Maddocks, chairman of Caia Park’s tenancy association, says he is fearful it will leave many residents – particularly those who struggle with literacy and numeracy – without vital support.
He said: “They’ve been given their notices to finish at the end of September, and after that there could be nothing.
“It is going to be chaos come October when the new Universal Credit comes in.
“For people signing on for income support, ESA (Employment and Support Allowance), it is going to be an absolute minefield.
“Whether filling out forms or going through numerous phone calls, these are things many people have difficulty with and they are going to be left high and dry.
“These are people who struggle with responsibility, but with support can handle it.
“There could be evictions if things don’t get done properly.”
Y Wern resident Andrea Roberts is one of those who rely on the help provided by the tenancy support workers and says many will struggle without their help.
Highlighting the importance of their work, she said: “I got a call this morning to say that after September that’s it.
“I’m devastated. They have helped me through domestic violence, helped me move, got my kids into a toddlers’ group.
“Who do I turn to now? It feels like everything is getting taken away from us.”
Alison Hill, senior officer for the Caia Park Partnership confirmed tenancy support staff had been given notice as required by law, but she hopes it will not come to that.
She said: “It is possible the funding we receive for our tenancy support services will stop and the project is potentially coming to an end at the end of September and we don’t know if it will be replaced.
“It is hanging in the balance at the moment, but obviously we are hopeful we can continue.
“We understand there will be a tendering process for new services and we are hopeful our contract will be rolled over.
“I hope it is because of the good work being done here.”