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Disabled residents in Medway are being encouraged to join a new forum and have their say in council decisions affecting the disabled community.

Carers and people with disabilities have the opportunity to join the Medway Disabled Residents’ Forum on Thursday, 6 March at the Pentagon Centre in Chatham from 10.30am.

The group is set to encourage the disabled population to speak out on issues that affect quality of life, access and welfare of disabled residents.

The concept of the forum was agreed unanimously at Full Council at the end of 2012, and has received cross-party support with Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Service Cllr David Brake, the Leader of the council’s Labour Group, Cllr Vince Maple and Cllr Geoff Juby, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group all backing the idea.

Chairman of the Medway Residents’ Forum Ryan Gallagher said: “Disabled people in Medway really need a way of speaking out about issues that have an impact on them. This forum will do just that, but we need lots of people to get on board if we are going to have an impact.

I would encourage anyone affected by disability to join us at the Pentagon Centre on Thursday.”

The event will run from 10.30am to 2.30pm and will be an opportunity to find out more about the forum.

There will also be a chance to find out about some of the services available to disabled people in Medway.

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A confidential fraud hotline for Medway residents has been launched this week. Customers can use the hotline to report all fraud against Medway Council from false benefit claims to fraudulent use of the Blue Badge for disabled people.

The types of fraud against the council people may report include: false applications for benefits, the unlawful sub-letting of council housing and the misuse of disabled badges or discounted bus passes. By phoning the new number- 01634 332233- a resident can select the type of fraud they wish to report and will be directed to the appropriate department, where they can speak to someone in confidence.

Reports can be made anonymously and information may be passed on to other relevant organisations the council work with, such as the police or Department for Work and Pensions.
The hotline is part of the council’s drive to help reduce fraud and protect public funds. The council has the power to investigate and prosecute those who commit council related offences in Medway.

For example, failing to declare a change in circumstances – such as getting a new job or moving in with a partner who is working – and wrongly claiming Council Tax, Housing Benefit or Income Support is a criminal offence.

It is hoped the confidential hotline will encourage more people to come forward. Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader of Medway Council and Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “I am very pleased with the introduction of this fraud hotline as I welcome anything that is done to clamp down on crime.

“I would urge people to contact us if they know of anyone acting fraudulently against the council, especially when a person wrongly claims benefits as they are using public money, which is paid for by taxpayers.” “Equally, it’s really important that people contact the council when their circumstances change to avoid the possibility of a criminal conviction.”

The Fraud Hotline number should not be used for enforcement type offences such as Fly- tipping and Trading Standards etc.

pentagonMedway Credit Union has moved into a new home as part of an ongoing campaign to give people on low incomes a safer alternative to pay day loan shops and doorstep lenders.

The low-cost savings and loans co-operative, one of two based in Medway, is now based on the first floor of the Pentagon Centre in Chatham. It had previously been based in a less prominent position further along the High Street. Read More

An NHS worker, who falsely claimed nearly £3,500 in benefits, has appeared in court and been fined by magistrates.

Miss K D, of Rainham Road, Chatham, appeared before Medway Magistrates Court on Monday, 17 June where she pleaded guilty to failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions that her circumstances had changed because she’d started work.

Miss D also pleaded guilty to making false claims for Jobseekers Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit by failing to declare she was working. Miss Daniel worked in the NHS flexibank.

Between February and September 2012, Miss D claimed £1,056.10 in housing benefit, £670.48 in council tax benefit and £1,761.71 in job seekers allowance, totalling £3,487.71. The investigation was carried out by officers from the Department for Work and Pensions and Medway Council. Miss D was fined £300 by magistrates.

In addition to prosecuting the claimant, Medway Council and the DWP will seek to recover the overpaid benefit. Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Finance Cllr Alan Jarrett said: “This case sends out a strong message to all benefits claimants that we will prosecute those who abuse the system. We will also seek to reclaim any money that has been falsely claimed. “This was a good example of government and council agencies working together to ensure people don’t claim benefits they’re not entitled to. “This case shows the importance of reporting changes in circumstances promptly to avoid large overpayments and the possibility of a criminal conviction.”

Council tax bills began to drop through letterboxes all over Gravesham in the last few weeks with many people on benefits finding they have to pay council tax for the first time.

Gravesham Borough Council wants to point out that this is the result of government policy to reduce the cost of benefits nationally. Every council in England and Wales is having to do the same and, on average benefits have been cut by 8.5% this year with a greater cut expected next year. More

Free information sessions on the government’s changes to welfare will be available for Medway’s social housing tenants throughout March. Staff from Medway Council’s Welfare Reform Team will be on hand at various Medway locations to provide information and advice on the changes which will come into effect in the coming months. More

A job centre worker has been convicted of fraudulently claiming more than £20,000 in benefits.
Benefits cheat Kim Draper was living with partner Lee Fairfax while claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit. More

Strood Leisure Centre now has new equipment for customers with disabilities, thanks to a donation by Medway Council. More

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