Poverty charity hits Barking and Dagenham Council for ‘one of the worst’ welfare systems in London

Barking Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears.

Barking Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears. - Credit: Archant

A leading poverty charity has hit out at Barking and Dagenham Council for the welfare assistance, or lack thereof, it provides residents.

The new report found that levels of council tax support in the borough are among the lowest in the capital.

It also found that the borough is only one of five London boroughs without a local welfare assistance scheme, which are designed to support people in crisis.

The study comes from the poverty charity Trust for London and the New Policy Institute.

Carla Ayrton is a senior researcher at New Policy Institute and led the research.

"Local social security is ever more vital for low-income Londoners as national social security continues to be cut back," she said.

"Our report shows how uneven local social security has become across London, with some of the most deprived boroughs offering the least help."

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She called on London's mayor Sadiq Khan to lead a co-ordinated cross-London effort to improve the situation.

Mr Khan has commissioned a review of welfare provision with a view to reform the system.

How the council spends money on housing support was also slammed.

It gets money from the government to help people on housing benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit. This is called discretionary housing payment (DHP)

Barking and Dagenham spent the tenth lowest amount to people struggling with housing under DHP: less than £1,000.

On top of this, just over half of DHP applications were successful, the ninth lowest rate in London.

The council has disputed the picture painted by the report.

A spokesman said the authority overspent on its discretionary housing payments fund last year and have increased this fund by £200,000.

The £50,000 in the council's Council Tax Support fund was also completely spent.

He said other support included has helped around 3,000 residents with housing and debt

The council has also increased its funding to help people with deposits and rent to £1.6 million.

But the New Policy Institute has stuck by its position.

"Our report shows that Barking and Dagenham has a high need for welfare assistance provision and low provision. Nothing in this response changes that assessment," it said in a statement.

"The report is based on the latest available data (either 2017-18 or 2018-9) and focuses on the three main elements of local welfare assistance provision."