READERS’ LETTERS

editorial image

What our readers have been writing about this week.

Sir, – The issue of performance related pay (PRP) as part of the remuneration, of senior officers of North Lanarkshire Council has been raised on the doorstep as I canvasss for the elections in May.

My colleague Cllr Paul Welsh and I have twice put forward motions to the full council to get rid of PRP for senior officers. And twice, the Labour group on the council, have voted together to stop this happening. The Labour group show an unhealthy support for the well paid bosses on the council whilst poorly paid council worker feel the pressure as the council tries to save £55 million over two years.

Contrast this support by the Labour group for the council bosses and the lack of enthusiasm by Labour councillors to settle equal pay claims for poorly paid council workers. These claims drag on and on.

This issue of PRP is so important to the SNP that it is included in our election manifesto. The SNP group on the council, if it takes control of North Lanarkshire Council in May, has given a cast iron commitment that PRP will cease to be paid to senior officers on the council. This PRP bonus will go.

It is also disappointing that the SNP councillors received no support from the Trade Unions on the vexed issue of PRP. The unions remain strangely silent on PRP - I wonder why?

Finally, another fact I have uncovered is that of the 29 senior officers receiving PRP, 22 live outside North Lanarkshire’s tax boundary. These 22 senior officers earn huge salaries but don’t even contribute to the council tax revenue base. – Yours etc.,

Cllr GORDON STEWART

Motherwell North

Stop abuse of the caring system

Sir – In reply to your article on cuts for carers.

Perhaps if there was careful scrutiny with regard to people who are disabled, there would be more money in the pot for deserving cases. This obviously is not applied, whether from the inexperience of trained staff to decide who or whom get help. It seems that if you know the ropes and how to use the system to your advantage relatives who work as carers give pointers to enable their relations to get all help saying they are alone when in fact their sister, daughter or son is there for long hours.

If you are on your own without help from friends or relations then help should be given but this is not the case because others are as above or taking advantage.

What training do these carers have, medical? Therefore they should be paid according to their qualifications if any.

Mary Fegan should reassess her cases carefully and stop abuse of the caring system. Surely Carers notice when calling who is without help and who is not. – Yours etc.,

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED

Make sure you claim your benefits

Sir, – New research reveals lack of awareness of welfare support and benefits changes amongst those on low incomes in Scotland.

As Benefits Awareness Month continues, a new survey published by Turn2us today has found that people who could be in most need of financial help in Scotland are unaware of the welfare support potentially available to them.

The research has uncovered that over two-thirds (67 per cent) of people living in low income households in Scotland are not claiming any means-tested benefits which they could be eligible for.

The results also indicate a potential lack of awareness of the type of support available for those on low incomes in the region. Over a third (37 per cent) said they believe that those claiming welfare benefits have experienced some misfortune, suggesting they could be unaware of in-work benefits which exist to top-up low incomes. This is highlighted by the finding that only five per cent are claiming working tax credit, despite the fact they are living on a low income and could be entitled.

Worryingly, at a time of welfare reform, over half (55 per cent) of those on low incomes in the area reported they had not heard of Universal Credit, which is set to replace most means-tested benefits from 2013 onwards. This suggests that improving awareness and communication around welfare benefits and planned changes is essential.

The latest government figures show that a staggering £19.1 billion in welfare benefits goes unclaimed every year, including £6.48 billion in child tax credits and working tax credits. Turn2us is running its second annual Benefits Awareness Month to highlight the support that could be available for those on low incomes who may be struggling financially.

The Turn2us website - www.turn2us.org.uk <http://www.turn2us.org.uk> – has a Benefits Calculator which anyone can use, free and in confidence to work out which welfare benefits and tax credits they might be entitled to, possible amounts they might receive and how to make a claim. The website also contains clear and concise information on welfare benefits and the changes set to take effect in the next few years.

The average annual uplift for an individual who has used Turn2us and has been successful in identifying and claiming previously unclaimed benefits is £3,222 – additional income that can make a significant difference.

Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us said: “Many of the individuals who have used Turn2us say that before coming to us they were simply unaware of what they were entitled to or put off from claiming by the complexity of the system and the process of claiming. Our latest research findings show there is a clear need for individuals and families to have access to good quality information and independent guidance to help them access financial help they are entitled to. Through working in partnership with a number of charitable organisations, we can spread the word further and reach even more people who may need help.”

Rachel, who lives in a low income household, initially contacted the Turn2us helpline to enquire about potential help available through charitable grants, when the advisor she spoke to also recommended a benefits check. This revealed that Rachel and her family were eligible for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

Rachel said: “I’d never heard of a benefits check before and prior to using Turn2us, I had no idea that I was entitled to this support. The extra help has taken some of the pressure off and eased our worry about not being able to pay our bills.”

Actor and broadcaster Nicholas Parsons is proud to be supporting this year’s Benefits Awareness Month campaign. He said: “With over £19 billion going unclaimed in welfare benefits, each year, it is vital that everyone checks the welfare benefits to which they could be entitled. The latest research from Turn2us reveals that people on low income believe that welfare benefits are there to support people who have hit difficult times - yet many of those most in need are not claiming that to which they are entitled.

“By using Turn2us, within a few minutes, people will be able to see the welfare benefits on which they are missing out. With over 13 million people living in poverty in the UK today, greater awareness of what financial help is available could help millions of people escape the poverty trap.”

Benefits Awareness Month is running until April 30, 2012. For more information, and details on Turn2us case studies and campaign partners, visit www.benefitsawareness.org.uk <http://www.benefitsawareness.org.uk> – Yours etc.,

Turn2us

We love to get your feedback. Write to us: Letters, Cumbernauld News & Kilsyth Chronicle, 10-12 Tay Walk, Cumbernauld G67 1BU, or send us an e-mail with “Letters” in the subject line. All letters must include a name and address, though in certain circumstances these may be witheld from publication if requested.