Making welfare work locally background
There have been major changes in the welfare benefit system over the last three years, including:
- cuts to housing benefit and the rental element of universal credit (UC), including the benefit cap and the under occupancy penalty (the ‘bedroom tax’)
- the introduction of UC, a single working age benefit, which will be claimed online, paid monthly and will include a rental element paid directly to people on UC
- localisation of council tax support and local social welfare.
The aims of these changes include:
- simplifying the system
- increasing financial independence
- making work pay
- encouraging behaviour change amongst people receiving support
- making cost savings to central Government.
For these policy changes to meet these aims, there must be sufficient support available to help people adjust. Without this support, there will be a danger that people will be unable to manage and risk falling into debt and homelessness.
Local authorities (LAs) and housing associations (HAs) are at the frontline of implementing changes and providing support for people affected by them. At a time of shrinking budgets and new demands from central Government to play a bigger part in the state safety net for the most vulnerable, innovative and cost-effective local solutions to control longer-term demand for services are essential. That is why we want to identify and share good practice from the most forward-thinking organisations, in the interests of local authorities, housing associations and residents.
Making welfare work locally is a best practice showcasing project. It aims to improve the experiences of people affected by welfare changes by promoting innovative and effective work by local authorities and housing associations in England and Wales. Citizens Advice is working with local government and the National Housing Federation (NHF) on this project. Both the local government and the NHF are on the project advisory board along with two local Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) who have good working relationships with their local authorities.
The Making welfare work locally awards will investigate and showcase best practice in local work on welfare reform in three broad categories:
- Changes to housing benefit and the rental element of UC, including the benefit cap and the under occupancy penalty (i.e. the ‘bedroom tax’).
- Local policies including localisation of council tax support, local social welfare schemes and discretionary housing policies.
- Delivery changes, including online claiming, monthly household payments and direct payment of rental element of universal credit (UC).