Making welfare work local: Caerphilly County Borough Council
Joint working to provide support to sustain tenancies
"As a council we are working hard to ensure appropriate support is in place for any tenants affected by the welfare reform changes introduced by UK Government."
"We are committed to helping all those who have been hit hard by these significant changes and our aim is to continue to do all we can to minimise the impact on communities across the county borough."
Cllr Gerald Jones, Deputy Leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council and Cabinet Member for Housing
Caerphilly County Borough Council found that around 20 per cent of their 11,000 households would be affected by the under-occupation penalty and 26 households by the benefit cap. They set up a senior-led programme board and a co-ordination team that included staff from across the council as well as Jobcentre Plus and the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). They focused resources on direct support for tenants through the employment of Tenancy Support Officers (TSOs) who visited tenants to provide a range of advice and support. Information sharing agreements enabled a smooth referral process to specialist organisations for support around debt, energy and employment support. The friendly, supportive role of the TSOs, together with the range of support on offer, had a positive impact on tenants’ overall wellbeing as well as their ability to sustain their tenancy. Early indications from ongoing customer satisfaction surveys are that a significant percentage of tenants were very happy with the support provided.
Key features of the work in Caerphilly
- Early strategic planning
In July 2012, Caerphilly County Borough Council set up a strategic welfare reform programme board and an operational co-ordination group. They employed four TSOs employed within the rent department to visit households facing the biggest benefit reductions.
- Providing wide ranging support: the role of a tenancy support officer
In addition to housing support, the TSOs help with a wide range of issues, including benefits, claiming assistance with water bills and other grants, and made referrals for energy advice, debt and employment advice.
- Building trust, sharing information and valuing independence
The council has built on the longstanding, trusted relationship with the CAB to develop information sharing agreements. This enables the council to share tenant details with the CAB, which means that tenants do not need to repeat information, and the CAB passes on information to the council about attendance, support provided and outcomes.
- Challenges and lessons learnt
Caerphilly was able to quickly identify a drop in take up of debt advice referrals and changed the way in which tenants were reminded of appointments to address this. They recognise the difficulty in measuring impact of their work, but are focusing more on this to develop a business case to secure the TSO posts beyond the current funding commitment.