Changes from welfare reform have created increased pressures for residents with regard to their financial and housing position. When households experience such challenges there are increased risks with regard to stability which in turn place residents and Council services under stress. If we do not plan thoroughly and assist residents, key priorities such as helping our residents to be as independent as possible will become far more difficult to deliver. Priorities that will support residents in overcoming these difficulties include providing high quality information, advice and guidance to support people living independent and healthier lives, supporting residents – young and old – into employment by implementing our new Pathways to Employment programme and building on the success of the Gateway Service by extending the range of households who receive an integrated whole household approach.
We have supported residents through the first phase of the Tory welfare cuts programme, which included replacing council tax benefit (funded centrally) with council tax support (funded locally), the introduction of the benefit cap at £26K and the bedroom tax. These changes affected over 16,000 residents in Croydon, who lost a total of over £8m per annum in welfare benefits – money that would have been spent in Croydon’s local economy.
To assist residents we proactively contacted those most at risk, with initial targeting focused on those losing over £50 in benefits per week. Whilst the initial target group stretched to 500, the service has now assisted nearly 6,000 residents. We will continue to support residents through the changes that will take place from 2016 to 2017, which include a benefits freeze, the household benefit cap reduced to £23K, capped child premium and the role out of Universal credit.