Welfare Reform Update
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to support the ongoing work being undertaken to manage the impacts of welfare reforms on Flintshire’s most vulnerable households when it next meets on 23 October.
Cabinet members will also be asked to note the changes to grant funding arrangements for Universal Support as announced by the UK Government recently.
Universal Credit ‘Full Service’ and other welfare reforms have had a huge effect on vulnerable households throughout the UK and Flintshire is no exception. Since 2012, the Council, together with its partners, has worked to help our most vulnerable residents navigate through the reforms and mitigate the full impacts of these reforms.
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate Assets and Management, Councillor Billy Mullin, said:
“This is no easy task and one that Flintshire County Council has not shied away from. We are concerned about the impact on our most vulnerable residents and so we commissioned a report to provide a welfare reform impact assessment.
“We are using this information to target households in need of support in order to help to alleviate the impacts and help them prepare now for future changes.”
Flintshire is working in many areas to assist and improve the situation for many residents impacted by welfare reform. These include:
- Targeting support to those who are unemployed to improve their options to get back in to work.
- Cross matching families with potential free school meal entitlement.
- In 2016, the benefit cap ceiling was significantly lowered. Eighty-five households affected by this have had help with discretionary housing payments. Personal budgeting advice is also available to help them to manage their finances.
- As at June 2018, 811 households in Flintshire were affected by the spare room subsidy, also known as “the bedroom tax”. These households have been supported by the Council which has attempted to mitigate the full impact of their reduction in Housing Benefit. In 2017-18, almost £59,000 was awarded to tenants through discretionary awards.
- We have seen an increase in Flintshire’s Universal Credit caseload from June 2017 of 828 to June 2018 of 3,623. Assisted digital support was provided to more than 2,750 Universal Credit customers during this time.
- Personal budgeting support has been given to over 300 Universal Credit customers. Extra sessions were introduced to meet demand for this advice.
Councillor Mullin continued:
“Flintshire’s response to the implementation of Universal Credit has been seen as a model of good practice by other Welsh Local Authorities and the Welsh Government and our Benefit Department has been providing support to other Welsh Local Authorities ahead of the roll out in their respective areas. This shows our care and support as a Council to our most vulnerable households.”
On 1 October this year, the Department of Work and Pensions announced that from 1 April 2019, they will no longer fund Local Authorities to provide the assisted digital support and personal budgeting support mentioned above. Instead it will fund Citizens Advice to deliver this service. As this announcement came without any prior consultation, implications for Flintshire are currently being worked through and further details will be brought to Cabinet as soon as possible.