North Lanarkshire Council secures £29m of welfare assistance
Thousands of people struggling from the affects of welfare reform received over £29 million worth of help, thanks to North Lanarkshire Council’s housing and social work team.
This year, the level of benefits secured by the council’s welfare rights staff increased by £647,583 (2.3 per cent) from last year, ensuring those most in need had access to, and secured, their benefits.
Income generated for the financial year 2014/15 across the entire Housing and Social Work Services, together with MacMillan Lanarkshire Advice Service and Sanctuary Housing Association amounted to £29,266,800.
And the success rate for Social Security Appeal Tribunals by the financial inclusion team rose to 68 per cent, an improvement on last year and well above the national average of 63 per cent.
As well as offering a full benefits check to all new service users, the local authority also offers help by:
- Completing claim forms and giving advice on the full range of social security benefits;
- Providing supportive evidence;
- Liaising with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), public utilities and housing authorities;
- Crisis intervention to prevent fuel disconnection, eviction etc.
- Challenging unfavourable decisions;
- Accompanying people to interviews and reviews;
- Resolving a range of other difficulties that claimants can experience, and
- Representation at Appeal Tribunals.
Councillor Sam Love, convener of housing and social work services, said: “Welfare reform continues to impact on our residents and services. Understanding the welfare reform changes and impacts to benefits can be complex, but our specialist services are on hand to offer a lifeline to people dependent on benefits.
“Successful welfare rights interventions, in which people are awarded extra benefit, often result in them becoming better able to manage their own affairs. And it’s testament to the staff in place that they offer this support and make sure people access their benefit entitlement.
“Given the poverty indicators here in North Lanarkshire, we must use all our resources to continue to provide vital support to the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
The roll out of welfare reform continues to bring changes and future priorities for the service include further representation as people move from DLA to Personal Independent Payment. In North Lanarkshire up to 7,800 people may lose their DLA and are likely to appeal this decision.
And over the past 12 months, the DWP has delayed the processing of new claims and review of existing benefits. This will result ultimately in an increase in demand for advice, information and representation later in 2015/16.
Migration of Universal Credit is expected to take place 2016-19. This migration will have a significant impact on Housing and Social Work Services (tenants and service users), as well as all residents in North Lanarkshire.