Welfare reform update
Cabinet members will be asked to support the ongoing work to manage the impacts that welfare reform has and will continue to have upon Flintshire’s most vulnerable households when they meet later this month.
Flintshire, along with its partners, has been working to mitigate the full impacts of welfare reforms on the most vulnerable Flintshire residents who have been significantly affected by Covid-19.
Currently, a total of 515 households in Flintshire still claiming housing benefit have been impacted by the “Bedroom Tax” representing a total deduction in benefits of around £9,200 per week or around £480,500 per year. These tenants have to find this extra money to pay their rent. An indication of the number of tenants affected in Universal Credit (UC) can be shown by the number supported by a Discretionary Housing Payment, which for 2020/21 was 577.
At May 2021, there were 26 households in Flintshire subject to a reduction in their housing benefit or UC as a result of the benefit cap being applied. This is a total loss of income for these residents of around £1,618 per year.
At February 2021 the caseload for Flintshire customers in receipt of UC had increased to 11,983 compared to 9,798 in April 2020 – a 22% increase.
The “Help to Claim” model which moved UC assistance to Citizens Advice does not include personal budgeting support and is only available to customers up to the date they receive their first full UC payment. Because of this, the Council’s Welfare Reform team continues to support to our residents.
Since April 2020 the provision has moved to a national call centre which operates a telephone service. Since the start of UC, the Council has seen high demand for services in relation to managing household finances, navigating the UC online systems and supporting customers to understand their claims and challenge where necessary.
Other assistance which the Council is providing includes:
- The Welfare Reform Team combines the administration of discretionary housing payment with general financial and holistic support for all customers inclusive of whether or not they are being impacted by welfare reforms.
- Assistance is offered and provided to residents who may be struggling to re-align their finances. As part of the drive for the holistic approach to supporting residents, partnership and collective working arrangements have been created with organisations such as Warm Wales and Flintshire Local Voluntary Council. Working with and developing partnerships is key to successful outcomes for our residents.
- Flintshire manages and coordinates the work of the Tackling Poverty Partnership, this group has representatives from all sectors and its aim is to coordinate, influence and, where possible, align advice provision in the county in order to mitigate the negative impacts of welfare reform, identify need from within the communities and support our residents by tackling poverty and promoting well-being.
Flintshire’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Corporate Management and Assets, Councillor Billy Mullin, said:
“The Covid-19 situation has resulted in more residents experiencing negative impacts on their financial situation. Flintshire will continue to support residents in any way they can. The service has been adapted to provide welfare support over the telephone which has meant that the service has been able to respond promptly to the increased volume of referrals.
“There has been a 13% increase in referrals for support when comparing 19/20 to 20/21. The assumption is this increase is due to the impacts of the pandemic.
“This work and support is critical now and will provide an opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of the support and partnerships. In turn, this will allow them to be available to flexibly respond to emerging issues in the future.”