Help to Claim service – reply from minister

NAWRA has received a letter from David Rutley, Minister for Welfare Delivery responding to our concerns about the Help to Claim service – in particular, the lack of face-to-face support in the service and the general lack of support for people needing advice given the ramping up of ‘Voluntary move to UC’.

The Minister says –

‘I thought it may be helpful to make clear Help to Claim is designed to be accessed after someone has decided to apply for Universal Credit (UC). It is not intended to help someone decide whether UC is right for them.’

He also reiterates the DWP’s assertion that jobcentre/DWP staff do not advise people to claim UC – apparently ‘independent welfare advice is available’ but the Minister has not responded to the point that funding is needed for this.

NAWRA has responded asking –

  • Does the government plan to provide funding to increase advice provision, particularly face to face? 
  • What safeguards does the DWP have in place, or will be putting in place, to ensure that no person is directed to claim universal credit without having an opportunity to receive a full benefit check and be advised of their options and the implications of those options? 
  • Can you please clarify what the Department is doing to achieve its objective ‘to ensure the right information is available to claimants in order to support them in making an informed decision about whether a voluntary move to universal credit is right for them’?

    Read our letter in full
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Improving Disability Assistance in Scotland

NAWRA has submitted a detailed response to the recent consultation on ‘Improving Disability Assistance in Scotland’.

In time Disability Assistance will replace Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment and Attendance Allowance as per devolved powers covered in Section 31 of Social Security Act (Scotland) 2018.

The points covered in our submission include:

  • It is welcomed from Scottish Government that Disability Assistance will be paid to aged 18 but we would extend this further for children and extend to aged 19 or end of non-advanced education, especially if already in payment through PIP
  • 50 metre test for mobility
  • Minimum assessments and only when required and should always be people centered
  • Introduction of safeguarding
  • Increase in independent advice provision as in accordance with our social security bill and charter

Our NAWRA rep in Scotland, Craig Samuel, said:

“At NAWRA we welcome a more inclusive and generous approach by Scottish Government and, in line with our charter, an increase in advice provision and kindness. But we still have a lot of hurdles to overcome before we can relax.

 

We must get payments made as quickly as possible to ensure we give the best opportunity of success to people living in Scotland; to reduce poverty levels, reduce isolation and reduce adverse childhood experiences.

 

We must also keep open all our channels of dialogue especially when we are relying on a safe and secure transfer from London. On behalf of NAWRA, I look forward to participating in future developments and hearing from our Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville as our key note speaker on 13th September when we have our annual Scottish conference in Edinburgh.”

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Challenging discrimination in welfare benefits

The Equality and Diversity Forum have launched an online handbook to help advisers, and advice services more widely, to identify and challenge potential discrimination within the benefits system.

The handbook includes a range of tools and practical help to make it easier for advisers to recognise discrimination issues and to help services to build equality rights into advice delivery.  It is an essential resource for everyone working in welfare rights.

Currently in beta form, the handbook can be accessed and downloaded at www.edf.org.uk/practicalequality.  The full version will be released within the next few weeks.

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Impact of welfare reform

The Equality and Human RIghts Commission have published their final  cumulative report on the impact of government Welfare Reforms.  The report suggests that children will be hit hardest with an extra 1.5 million being pushed into poverty.

In addition, the report finds that the child poverty rate for those in lone parent households will increase from 37% to over 62% and households with three or more children will see losses of around £5,600.  They also identify significant and disproportionate impacts on disabled families, on women and on Bangladeshi households.

The report concludes that these negative impacts are largely driven by the freeze in working-age benefit rates, changes to disability benefits, and reductions in Universal Credit rates.

David Isaac, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which is responsible for making recommendations to Government on the compatibility of policy and legislation with equality and human rights standards, said:

“It’s disappointing to discover that the reforms we have examined negatively affect the most disadvantaged in our society. It’s even more shocking that children – the future generation – will be the hardest hit and that so many will be condemned to start life in poverty. We cannot let this continue if we want a fairer Britain.”

The Commission calls on government to reconsider existing welfare policies and to review the level of welfare benefits to ensure that they provide an adequate standard of living.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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