Benefits advice services set to work more closely to help more vulnerable residents

Published Thursday, 27th June 2019
Leader of Rotherham Council, Cllr Chris Read
Leader of Rotherham Council, Cllr Chris Read

Key welfare benefits advice services are set to work more closely together in order to provide a seamless service to meet the needs of some of Rotherham’s most vulnerable residents.

The impact of changes to the benefits system along with the introduction of Universal Credit has left many families and individuals in difficulties and needing advice and support, especially around finances and debt management. Over the last year the Council and its partners have helped advise around 17,000 residents.

The annual real terms loss to Rotherham people from welfare reform measures has been estimated by Sheffield Hallam University at £66 million in 2016/17 and is projected to double to £132 million by 2020/21. 

The movement of thousands of households from benefits such as Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Income Support onto Universal Credit by 2023 is also expected to cause difficulties for many as is the ongoing movement of disabled people from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). 

Rotherham Council has been assisting residents through a number of different advice services, including housing and legal services. Residents also access support through a number of voluntary and community sector organisations, including the Citizens Advice Bureau, Kiveton Park Advice Centre, Age UK, and Rotherham Ethnic Minority Alliance – which collectively form the Advice in Rotherham Partnership.

Now all the partners will work together to deliver what is being called the “Single Advice Model” to help to ensure that people get access to the advice that they need more quickly, regardless of which service they approach first.

As a result, it should be easier for anyone seeking support to make an appointment with the most relevant service, and for the partners to share information, meaning that the public won’t need to repeat their information numerous times.

Cllr Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council said: “Changes in benefits and increasingly tight rules can mean that many residents get stuck in the system, not knowing how to access the support that they’re entitled to. For some of the least well off people in community, that uncertainty can mean going without food or every day essentials. So across the partnership we want to ensure that residents get the help they need, at the time that they need it, and from the service best placed to help them.

“Feedback from residents has told us there has been confusion with people having to explain their situation two or three times to different advice services. Sometimes people need specific support which the Council provides, but on other occasions our partners are best placed to help them. So it’s really important that we make it as easy as possible to find the right place for advice; and that where appropriate partners are able to share information and work in a joined up way.”  

View the Cabinet Report