Welfare reform update
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to support the ongoing work to manage the impacts that Universal Credit ‘Full Service’ (UC) and other welfare reforms have had and will continue to have upon Flintshire’s most vulnerable households when it next meets on 16 July.
Welfare reform will, by 2020, have reduced expenditure on social security benefits available to low income working-age households by around £31 billion per annum.
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.
By March 2019, a total of 677 households had been impacted by the Bedroom Tax, representing a total deduction in benefits of over £565,000 per year.
Although the number of households affected by the benefit cap has reduced by 18% from 114 households to 93 households, those who are affected by this reform tend to experience a greater reduction in their weekly income. 49 of these households have been identified as being at financial risk and there is support available by the Welfare Reform Response Team within the Council, to ensure where possible, they don’t reach crisis point.
By April 2019, the caseload for Flintshire customers in receipt of UC was 5,790 compared to a caseload of 3,623 in June 2018 which equates to a 59.81% increase.
Rent arrears for 546 council house tenants on UC is approximately £567,000. The impacts on rent arrears are also being experienced by other social landlords.
Despite the Department of Work and Pensions announcing that Citizens Advice would support people on UC from April this year, the Council continues to assist them as this new service does not include the personal budgeting support element and is only available to customers up to the date they receive their first full UC payment.
Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate Management and Assets, Councillor Billy Mullin, said:
“Since the start of Universal Credit, the council has seen unprecedented demand on services in relation to managing their finances, navigating the online systems and supporting customers to understand their claims.
“The Welfare Reform Response team will continue to support our residents particularly with personal budgeting, which in UC is particularly significant to customers who may be entering work for the first time, or have been in receipt of benefits for some time, and for whom moving to one combined monthly payment poses a real challenge. This shows our care and support as a Council to our most vulnerable households.”
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 and advice to other Welsh Local Authorities ahead of the roll out in their respective areas.