High Peak Unite Community has set up a Facebook group to provide mutual support amongst benefit claimants.
Called Glossopdale Benefit Claimants’ Support Group, it is designed to share experiences and support for each other.
The group will also provide a platform to get useful information and advice out quickly from Citizens Advice, The Bureau and other organisations.
Damien Greenhalgh, voluntary and community manager for The Bureau, said: “This group of volunteers, working to support people navigate the benefit system, has been of help to people across the town.
“Extending this with a peer support Facebook group is welcome and is particularly relevant during social distancing measures and the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.”
The group says this is a critical time for all those on benefits as the current and future impact of the pandemic is likely to change the way the benefit system is applied.
As of last Wednesday, the use of sanctions is back in play and all claimants are now expected to be actively seeking work, but the group says not many have been told this formally.
Those who lost their jobs during the pandemic will now have their first complete experience of Universal Credit.
Many more are expected to have to claim Universal Credit as the furlough scheme is withdrawn.
Roger Naden, High Peak CAB advice services manager for High Peak, said: “Unprecedented measures including the suspension of job-seeking requirements for Universal Credit, an increase in basic element of UC and making it easier to claim UC, were put in place by the Government to avoid immediate financial hardship to benefit claimants.
“As these lift, along with potential increases in unemployment and the resumption of debt collection, more people are expected to fall in to poverty.”
High Peak Unite Community is the ‘trade union’ for those who cannot work, such as carers, plus the unemployed and retired.
Its main priority is to campaign for improvements in the benefit system and to support those who need to use it.
The group already coordinates an advocacy service, taking referrals from Citizens Advice and The Bureau.
It also provides volunteers to accompany claimants going to important meetings such as work capability assessments or appeal tribunals.
On Wednesday, High Peak Unite Community was with Chesterfield Unite Community in Chesterfield in support of a national day of action calling for sanctions to be stopped and to end the five week delay to payments. Also to extend the temporary £20 a week increase to all claimants and to make it permanent.
The group’s Kasey Carver said: “Unite Community is not just about campaigning but about working at grassroots level to support those on benefits.
“It is in a position to provide some funding and support if, for instance, members of the Facebook mutual support group want to self-organise events or projects in support of each other.
“Glossop Labour Club has already offered use of their facilities for any such initiatives.”