23/10/2013 The Wales Report


Tenants in Wales say they can't cope with changes to the benefits system. With Welsh waistlines expanding - should the Government tell us what we can and can't eat?

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Tonight on The Wales Report, is Wales heading for a housing debt


crisis? A Welsh trial of the Westminster benefit changes raises


serious questions. Half the population of Wales is


either overweight or obese and it is getting worse. Isn't it time for a


mainly national initiative? With cases of human trafficking on


the rise, we have the stories of those affected, and they are a lot


closer than many realise. Stay with us for The Wales Report.


Good evening. Welcome to The Wales Report. We examine the issues that


matter to you, your job, your health, your communities, your


schools, and where we question the decision makers. Tonight we look at


the drastic changes to the housing benefit system instigated by the


coalition Government in Westminster. Changes that some are warn willing


have a devastating effect on Welsh communities. The UK Government's


trial of the new universal credit in Torfaen is said to be creating


serious financial problems for some vulnerable claimants. The area's


biggest housing association is reporting a significant increase in


rent arrears and some experts are warning that when the reforms are


applied across Wales, the number of people in financial trouble will


soar. Helen Callaghan has been examining the likely impact of the


welfare reforms across the country. Torfaen in South Wales is a place


that's seen the future. It has been one of the pilot areas for universal


credit, the UK Government's new benefit scheme. The trial is meant


to show the system can work, but that's not what we've discovered.


Take Colin Bic, who lives in Cwmbran. She proud of his house and


he's had help from the local housing association to make it his home.


They did a refurb last year, on the kitchen. I love it here, so I don't


want to lose it. But Colin, who has disabilities, was worried that that


could happen. Until last year, his housing benefit was paid directly to


his landlord. Now under the universal credit pilot scheme, it is


given to him. The aim is to get people to take responsibility for


their own money. For Colin, it was a daunting prospect. I find, I would


have thought extra money, there forgot it was to do with that and


with my disability and everything I would have thought it is extra


money. I forgot it is for the landlord and I would have spent it.


Col sin lucky, he volunteers with a credit union, and they've been


helping them with his finances. He wouldn't be able to do it on his


own. He isn't the only person in the area having difficulty. People here


have struggled. A fifth of the tenants who started the pilot


project have ended up going back to the old system, where rents is paid


directly to their London Lords. They simply couldn't cope with doing it


all themselves. But there was a cost to doing that. At the largest


housing association, they believe charging those in debt extra is a


serious flaw in the universal credit scheme. Some pretty hefty, I would


almost describe them as punitive claw-backs that people will have


deducted from their benefit to repay arrears to the point that they'll be


sucking a lot of money out of the household. That's going to cause


extreme poverty. Do you buy your child a pair of shoes they need or


pay your rent? Those are the dilemmas people are facing. In


Torfaen many on the pilot project simply failed to pay their rent.


Arrears rose to more than 5%. What will happen when the scheme is


rolled out across the country? The Wales Report asked a leading


economist to look at the figures and analyse the potential impact for


Wales. He believes substantial Government investment will be needed


to make the scheme work. If lessons are not learned from the pilot


project, then inevitably arrears will become a serious issue for


housing associations. There should be enough support in the system to


keep arrears below 5%. There must be a lot of monitoring and there must


be a lot of support for tenants to move back on to direct payments and


to landlord payment. You are going to need a lot of support for that. I


would imagine in terms of budgets, it is difficult to put a ?1 million


figure on it but you would need to put about 5 periods of the total


budget into that resource pot. And as well as costing the UK Government


more money in administration, this scheme could also cost housing


associations. This housing association in Cardiff, which


provides houses for 2,000 families in the city, has seen our figures.


Its finance director told me there may be serious consequences when


universal credit goes live. If it is rolled out across the UK, they're


going to have problems. I think arrears for a housing association is


concerning. Because we can't then build the new homes that people


desperately need. It is money we can't use on other services. But


there are growing concerns that the Government is ignoring those


problems that have been thrown up by the pilot project. Next week


universal credit will be rolled out to more locations across the UK. It


is claimants like Colin who will be living with the day-to-day


consequences. That was Helen Callaghan reporting.


Joining us from our Westminster studio is the Wales Office Minister


Stephen Crabb. Thank you for joining us. No problem. Are you concerned by


the arrears figures? Do they tell us that this scheme is fraught with


risk? The figures don't tell us what the final scheme will look like.


This wasn't a pilot project as such, but demonstration project. What we


saw in Torfaen was one of six projects around the country that


tested different ways of supporting tenants as we make this big change


from paying their housing benefit direct to landlords rather than


paying the benefit to them, so that they manage their own finances. In


each of these six areas we've been looking at different ways of


supporting tenants and learning the lessons from them. We are looking


closely at the figures that arose from the Torfaen project and seeing


exactly what safeguards need to get put in place to protect the tenants,


to protect the housing associations, and the landlords themselves from


the risk to their revenue, which was highlighted in your piece there. We


are coming up with a package which I believe will make universal credit


robust as it is rolled out across Wales. When you talk about


protecting tenants, like our cais study, who has learning


disabilities, someone many would consider is in a vulnerable


position, would the lessons learned be that someone like him shouldn't


be involved in the project? Partly from the evidence from Torfaen and


other projects, people with severe challenges in life, people


struggling be alcohol dependency, drug abuse, people with learning


disabilities as well, for those people payment of their benefit will


still go direct to their London Lord to protect them in that way. But the


starting point for universal credit, this is the huge change, will be


that the vast majority of people are able to manage their own finances.


We should expect them to manage their own finances. And actually


when you look at the Torfaen figures, the results from the


project there, the vast majority of people were able to manage their own


finances. Part of the way we tackle entrenched welfare dependency in


Wales is by changing the mind-set, encouraging people to be responsible


with finances and giving them the support to help them to do so. But


our case study was someone with clear learning dibble pis who has


been sucked into this scheme. It was that a mistake? No, it is part of


the learning from the demonstration project. If a tenant falls into two


consecutive months arrears there'll be an automatic switch-back to


paying the benefit direct to the landlord, and providing the support


to the tenant to help them get out of arrears. There'll be that


safeguard in place. Why is this claw-back business that we heard in


the film such a punishing one? Why are the measures being taken in


terms of arrears so punitive, and some people argue multiply the scale


of the problem for the individuals involved? I don't recognise the


figures that were used in the piece, Huw, but we'll look at that. Clearly


if a tenant falls into arrears, haven't kept up with their rent


payments, there has to ba way for them to pay back what's owed.


Clearly that needs to be a moderate and a sustainable way, or they will


fall into greater difficulty. This claw-back is not seen to be a


moderate way is it? It is seen to be by those people in the system, the


claw-back terms your Government is putting into position are extremely


harsh, do you not see that? I make the point this was a demonstration


project, one of six looking at different ways of tacking the


problem. We shouldn't see the Torfaen results and some of the


challenges you highlight from that as the final outcome. It is all


going into the mix of things we need to look careful at to make sure we


get the right outcome so that universal credit achieves positive


fruit that we intend it to in Wales. And viewers draw the conclusion that


the claw-back terms would be revised works they be right? We monitor


these constantly to make sure problems aren't been exacerbated and


we'll see what lessons are to be learned from Torfaen to ensure that


the final outcome when we roll out universal credit in Wales is fair


and it delivers benefits that we intend it to. Let's not forget that


200,000 families in Wales will see their average benefit entitlement


under universal credit incareers by ?160 per month. There's lot to be


gained for Wales in the roll-out of universal credit. It is important


that we tackle the teething problems but let's look at the bigger picture


that welfare reform will deliver for our economy and society. What is


your message to the housing associations will face increase


costs if they are looking to chase areerksds they have administrative


costs attached to. That will you put your hand in your pocket and give


them a bit of help or not? The Government is making available


substantial resources to ease the transition to the roll-out of


universal credit. Part of that is working with the housing


associations. But clearly from the demonstration projects, one of the


things we need to be doing is talking closely with the housing


association, finding out what works and what doesn't. Finding out ways


they can better support their tenants of the one of the challenges


here is encouraging housing associations and other landlords to


understand their tenants' needs better, to help support them and to


be part of the solution in this. Minister, thank you for joining us.


The latest health research confirms that more than half the people in


Wales are classed as overweight or even obese and the nation's


waistlines are expanding year on year. Over the past few weeks BBC


Wales has a special season of programmes, Live Longer Wales, has


been looking at what people can do and what Government agencies can do


to tackle what is called the modern Welsh epidemic. With me is one of


the world's leading experts on beerfcts head of the Sandford school


of policy in North Carolina. He's investigated the Welsh weight


problem and says people can't be relied upon to make the right


choices. We can count on personal responsibility that reveal with


problems of obesity but it is contrary to the way we address


problems of health in general. We have a very unhealthy food


environmentment some people have the willpower and restraint to prevail


over it. But obesity is stampeding out of control. So, in an exclusive


poll for BBC Wales we asked you what you think. Do politicians and public


authorities need to do more? Firstly a strong majority of those asked


believe that TV adverts for junk food should be banned before 9.


00pm. 65% of you think that the


Government's robust antismoking measure shoes be the template for


action against obesity. But there is a limit to the appeal


of state intervention. 73% of those questioned did not want Government


telling them what they should and shouldn't eat.


Our health correspondent has been treating himself to some cake and


some pop at the Senedd to see what politician are planning.


What's the healthiest cake you've got? It is probably the carrot cake.


You've convinced me, can I have a clies of that and a bottle of pop,


please? Yes, no problem. That looks fantastic Thank you. When the slices


are this big and the cake looks so good it is easy to succumb to


temptation. But in an effort to get the grips with our expanding


waistlines is it time for the Welsh Government to say enough is enough,


you've had your fill? Over the years millions of pounds have been spent


on initiatives to try and make us healthier, to eat better and to


exercise. But is just getting us to eat more carrots instead of carrot


cake enough? Or is it time the Welsh Government starts wielding a very


big stick? I can tell you they've been thinking about it.


Around this time last year, the Welsh Government asked for views on


whether or not there should be a new law on pillow health. The response,


they say, has been encouraging. They've been cooking up ideas about


what it could involve. Banning supersides portions in restaurants


perhaps or prohibiting fast food places being located close to


schools. And it is not just the Government. Plaid Cymru recently


announced if they came to power they would put a levy on sugary drinks.


Cheers. So will the new public health law


become a reality? The answer the Welsh Government's Chief Medical


Officer gave me was, wait and see. Could it be a key ingredient in the


effort to make us healthier or are Ministers slowly losing their


appetite amid concerns of a nanny state?


As you can see there's plenty to chew over.


Is that the biggest piece of carrot cake I've ever seen? I don't think


I've ever been served a portion like that in my life.


Chris has been involved in consultations with the Welsh


Government on beerfcts and Andrew is leader of the Welsh Conservatives.


Thank you both for coming in. Chris, what is the case for public health


law which takes some of the measures that Owain was mentioning there? I


think there is a case. We certainly are finding that lots of people are


overeating. Unless we legislate and perhaps help them to eat healthily,


this situation is just going to get worse and worse. Where is the


evidence that legislating will encourage people? There is some


evidence. But I think perhaps Wales needs now to be the leader here,


because we've got the opportunity to do something. Certainly as


dieticians, we think that public health Wales needs to take the lead


in terms of legislating or perhaps educating people in a way that they


can understand. And certainly some projects that I've worked on over


the years I've seen that happy. Andrew, the problem is that being


nice and offering polite advice, clearly it hasn't worked. Getting


people to take responsibility for themselves or their families in far


too many cases hasn't worked, so we are on to the legislative option. Do


you think that's reasonable? I struggle on the legislative option,


because actually it is an objective opinion as to what is bad for you


and what's good for you. We need to be looking at lifestyle in its


entirety, whether it is exercise, what we eat, the environment we live


in and indeed the planning system we use to create eur cities, towns and


villages and the way that food is put before us. From your tape there


there was a sizeable piece of cake there. What size is a reasonable


portion? What might be reasonable to you is most probably a small portion


to me, with the greatest. Are it is about accepting the individual


ultimately has to be at the centre of the debate. Understood. But that


is a familiar argument that you put clearly there. Again, the problem's


getting worse, so clearly that argument so far hasn't been an


effective one. At what point due begin to think that legislating is


going to help in some instances? The point I would put back to you is


public health Wales came out recently and highlighted many of


their campaigns which haven't succeeded, because the messaging


either hasn't been strong enough or they haven't been hitting their


target audience. It is an objective opinion here. If you are going to


shape legislation, who is the person who is going to say what is an


unhealthy meal and what is a healthy meal? What weather is a good-sized


portion and what is bad? Is it common sense? It's not as simple as


that. The entire system, is it goes from planning, what we make


available for people to consider size and the food we consume and the


lifestyle we lead in the 21st century. Chris, give me an example


of a measure that could be legislated on which you think would


have a measurable impact on this problem. I think making sure we've


got good public health messages and certainly making sure the advice


that we give people is connect. I would say that that advice is there


already. It is but the problem is there are lots of other people


chipping in on this. What we are finding in practice is that people


are confused about what they should be eating. To whack that -- to back


that up we need more money invested. There are so few dieticians in


Wales, the total number is less than 300. There is not a lot we can do


with those small numbers. I think we need to look at certainly


legislating in terms of not allowing them to put fast food restaurants


near schools. That's quite important. That's one. And I think


also, perhaps we ought to look at legislating on things like fizzy


drinks. You would have to put a lot of tax on a fizzy drink to prevent


people from buying them. I think that is an issue. What about TV


adverts? TV adverts definitely I think need to change, because they


are being, I think they are flouting the rules, particularly on


terrestrial TV. I think we need to look at that as well. Fizzy drinks,


a big levy on fizzy drinks works that make sense to you? I think it


was a conference speech. As a measure. A tax which they were


talking about, which relice on people drinking more fizzy drinks so


you can create more medical positions. I think the argument is


more nuanced than that. I was involved in a campaign to promote


school milk. I found out that schools were offered inducements to


stop vending MPs with fizzy and sugary drinks in them. Those


messages and inducements need to be stopped. That doesn't need


legislation. We don't need Government involving themselves in


every facet of lives. We need stronger public health messages.


Look at the way the fast food industry operates. They have mentals


that are resentive to people. We in the public sector and public health


have to get sharper and more critical in our messaging, because


this is killing people prematurely. And it is killing people younger and


younger each year that passes. Is legislation the way to do it? I


suggest to you I don't think at the moment that argument's been made and


I would be very concerned about interfering as a politician in the


choices that people have to make as individuals. Good to talk to you


both. Thank you for coming in. There's been no shortage of stories


in recent years about human trafficking. The UK is especially


vulnerable because of its thousands of miles of coastline and Wales


shares some of that vulnerability. Cases of human trafficking have


risen bay quarter in the past year. And victims are often targeted to


provide cheap labour, to join gangs of beggars or even for sexual


exploitation. The writer and director Jennifer Hartley has been


collecting the stories of people in Wales for a tour. He hit me on the


face. He pulled me by hair into a room and hit me. I do, I do not


understand. I hear a girl screaming. Then I he rape me Human trafficking


is a problem that's happening on our doorstep. It is not somebody else's


problems, it is ours and it is a growing problem and it will become


more and more our problem if we don't do something about it. This


man, he tell me he has friend who bring me to the UK, where I will get


help. I am happy. I am very happy. I think I start new life.


You've got people who are coming over from abroad with promises that


they can be models or offers of work. And a lot of them are with


recruiting agencies that are set up by the traffickers in various


countries, Eastern Europe, wherever. He said this is modelling. We must


do this model for anyone, he say, and if I say no, they give me drug.


I started to hear the stories and work with these people I couldn't


believe not just that it was in the UK, as big as it was, and that it


involved British people, not just foreigners coming in from outside.


But also that it was literally on my doorstep, being in Wales. Sometimes


when you take the pills you think you've got it, like you don't know


what's real no more, but it don't matter. Then you don't care what you


do to you. Education of the public and education of the youth I think


would be mainly steps towards help not eradicate the problem, I can't


see it ever been eradicate casmtd it's a multimillion dollar business.


Which is a horrific thing to see, but it is true. The and within that


life is very cheap. You can see and you can hear, but you stopped to


feel. Joining me to discuss some of the issues raised by that dramatic


representation is Steven Chapman, the anti- man trafficking


co-ordinator for Wales. Thank you for coming in. Thank you. The fact


that your job exists tells us there is a problem. What's the scale of


the problem in Wales? We don't really know. Most people say what we


are dealing with is the tip of the iceberg. Last year there was only 34


cases referred to the national referral mechanism but we know


there's a lot more people out there who need rescuing. When we talk


about trafficking the perception is it is often Eastern European people


being taken advantage of, being shipped into this country by


unscrupulous people. First of all can we say let's dispel that myth


about people coming to the UK. Yes people are being trafficked here but


we've got people being taken from the UK and being trafficked abroad.


We've seen cases of people being trafficked internally within the


United Kingdom. I don't think we want to stereotype there is any


particular type of person being trafficked. In a Welsh context,


given that you have this role, what can you tell us about the nature of


the problem in Wales that is maybe different to other parts of the UK.


Are we more vulnerable? I wouldn't say we are more vulnerable, but the


Welsh Government is really leading on this. What we've said is we want


to make Wales hostile to human trafficking but we also want to


provide the best possible support to people who've been trafficked. If we


get that right we'll make our communities safer. When you talk


about the problem in a specific Welsh context, that's to say we are


not talking about people coming from abroad but problems which are at


home, how do they manifest themselves? What are some of the


cases you've come across that would make you think that actually there's


a problem here, that we are not really dealing with properly? A lot


of people say that human trafficking is hidden. It is not. We need to


shine a light on it. Yes, we've got people in the sex trade. We've got


people working in labour who've being exploited. We've got children


being exploited. What we've got to do is an awareness of the public.


They need to be switched on to this. Just as we are switched on now to


domestic abuse, which was seen a decade or so ago as being a hidden


crime, we've got to make the public aware of it, because it is happening


here. It is happening in Wales in our back yard. Are you saying that


there are people who will know of instances of what you deem to be


human trafficking but maybe don't characterise it as that? Yes, and


what I say is, if you do suspect human trafficking, if it is urgent


it is 999 to the police or if it is not urgent, 111. If you want to


remain anonymous, we've got Crimestoppers. There are many ways


of reporting it. Some people don't feel confident to report. They


think, I might be a bit silly. That person I saw, is I don't really


know. What I'm trying to say, if you are in doubt, make the call to the


experts, who will send someone to deal. A final point about your role.


There is a view in some quarters that although you are doing the best


that you can, you are too close to the Government, you are part of the


Government and maybe it should be a more independent person with more


resources and more ability to act in a more robust way. What is your


answer to that? The issue is of course I'm close to the Government,


I'm a civil servant employed by the Welsh Government. But what we've


heard recently is that the UK Government is going to introduce a


modern savoury Act. As part of that there'll be the role of an


independent UK Commissioner. Until that happens, people are still


suffering. Traffickers are getting away with it who need to be brought


to justice. And not only brought to justice but we need to take their


assets off them. I think what we've done in Wales we are leading the


way. Steven Chapman. Thank you. That's it for this week's programme.


If you have any comments on the issues discussed tonight, you are


welcome to get in touch. We'll be back next Wednesday. Until


then, thank you for watching, goodnight.


A housing crisis waiting to happen? Tenants in Wales say they can't cope with changes to the benefits system. With Welsh waistlines expanding - should the Government tell us what we can and can't eat?

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