By 2020, the UK Government welfare reforms will have reduced expenditure on
social security benefits available to low income working-age households by
around £31 billion per annum.
Flintshire County Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be asked to
note a report which provides an update on the impacts Universal Credit ‘Full
Service’ and other welfare reforms are having on Flintshire’s most vulnerable
residents and the work that is ongoing to mitigate and support these households.
A number of households continue to be highly impacted by welfare reform and
Flintshire is putting together a proactive action plan to target support to
these households in order to help to alleviate the impacts and also help
households to prepare now for future changes.
From the autumn of 2016, the benefit cap ceiling has been significantly
lowered. By September this year, 111 Flintshire households were affected by
this, which equates to a weekly loss of income of £12,300 – annually this is
Assistance has been provided to customers around referrals to fuel and
utilities companies to access social tariff’s and support services, to
proactively promote Discretionary Housing Payments and to assist with dealing
with non- priority debts.
Universal Credit (UC) ‘Full Service’ was implemented in Mold, Shotton and Flint
earlier this year. At the end of September, the caseload of UC claims is
2,356. In Flintshire we are experiencing, first hand, a significant number of
challenges and issues with the implementation of UC Full Service. Partly
because of the major change for those claiming to deal with and partly because
the UC processes are still in development as part of the UK Governments “test
and learn” approach to the roll out.
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, Councillor
Billy Mullin, said:
“The Council’s response to the implementation of UC has been seen as a model of
good practice by other Welsh Local Authorities and the Welsh Government. This
is a credit to our Connects officers who have provided digital support to over
1,000 customers, helping them with making a new claim for UC and managing their
online claim for UC.”
Other areas affected by welfare reforms and having a detrimental effect on
vulnerable residents include:
· Spare room subsidy (also known as “the bedroom tax”);
· Rent collections – issues when changing over from housing benefit to UC;
· Homeless Services - housing benefit used to cover some of the costs that the
Local Authority incurred when placing an individual or family in short term
emergency accommodation. UC does not include such provision.
Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member or Housing, Councillor Bernie
“Flintshire has taken the initiative and been innovative in working on
providing support and solutions to help our most vulnerable residents. Since
April 2017 Personal Budgeting Support has been delivered by our Welfare Reform
Personal Budgeting Support cases have already highlighted issues including
payday lenders having direct access to a customer’s bank account so that when
their monthly UC is paid they are accessing the account and leaving the
customer with insufficient money to live on.
Approx. 90% of customers that have been supported by the team have debt issues
and there is an increase in customer’s accessing pay day loans and increasing
their overdrafts to bridge the gap until their first UC payment has been
Approx. 65% of customer that have been supported by the team have applied for a
short term benefit advance. This advance is provided by DWP to assist with a
customer’s living costs until their first payment of UC, and then is recovered
from ongoing benefit.
The team will continue to advise and support households most risk of losing
household income, those facing increasing difficulties in maintaining their
rent payments, and those at an increased risk of homelessness.