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Making welfare work locally: Wiltshire Money

22 July 2014

Working together to equip residents and organisations across Wiltshire on welfare reform

'By working together we are becoming more efficient and the services we provide to the people of Wiltshire are continuing to improve.

We have challenging times ahead, and to ensure we protect the services which the most vulnerable people in our county rely on, we know we have to continue to work differently. There are no signs of improvement in the level of funding for local public services, but by working together with communities and partners we can make better use of our resources and save money to lessen the impact these vital services.'

Jane Scott Leader of Wiltshire Council

‘The partnership works fantastically. If I could transfer the way of working to the other local authority areas we work in, this would be amazing.

Suzanne Wigmore, Welfare Reform Project Manager, GreenSquare Housing and Chair of Wiltshire Money

Summary

Wiltshire Money is a financial inclusion partnership, made up of 10 members, which was set up in 2011. They formed a welfare reform project group made up of housing associations, the council, Jobcentre Plus and the advice sector. Together they assessed the impact, shared data, planned and delivered expert training that effectively equipped frontline workers from across Wiltshire to support their clients. They designed and produced information materials and even co-designed letters and co-ordinated their distribution to ensure clear and consistent messages. They also mapped advice and support services to ensure people knew where to get help and got it quickly.

Key features of the work in Wiltshire

  • Early impact assessments and information sharing with partners
    Wiltshire Council’s research team mapped the likely impact of all the welfare reforms on Wiltshire residents which provided the impetus for further work on welfare reform. In late summer 2012 they shared their housing benefit data with social landlords to match against their household data. This enabled them to plan their work to support residents. After April 2013 each partner organisation shared their experiences of the impacts to gather a Wiltshire-wide picture.
  • Working together to run effective awareness and training events for front line staff
    Wiltshire Council, Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), local housing providers and Jobcentre Plus ran training sessions for front line staff including health visitors, social workers and staff from children centres. This included sessions on financial education and banking, fuel poverty and housing advice. Staff who attended said that they felt better equipped to support their clients after the training.
  • A range of jointly produced information products, getting a clear and consistent message out across Wiltshire
    Wiltshire Money produced fact sheets and a video for staff to share with service users. They also produced an online resource that lists the different sources of support across Wiltshire.
  • A responsive and transparent approach to developing local policy
    The council used the insight from their impact assessments to design their discretionary housing payment policy and shared the information with partners early so they could design their own support to complement this.