Staying fearless in the changing world of benefits

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In BHT Training’s latest blog,  benefits guru and BHT trainer Jayne Knights brings you up to speed with the major news to affect all things welfare benefits-related.

There is always a lively debate regarding welfare benefits, not least during an election campaign.

Changes to benefit entitlement and provision has had a major impact on the lives on many people – some saying it causes unnecessary hardship, others that it provides an incentive to move into work.

In Brighton, Hove and surrounding areas many of those people will be clients of BHT, and they will of course receive BHT’s best efforts to support and advise them. I’m sure it’s no surprise to local people that Brighton and Hove, and East Sussex generally, has a pool of advice resources which far exceeds the majority of local authorities in the surrounding counties and we are very lucky to have such an array of experienced advisers in organisations such as BHT, Citizens Advice, The Fed, St Luke’s Advice Service, Age UK, the Carers Centre and others, with many equivalent organisations in Lewes, Eastbourne and Hastings. The problem is that these services are very overstretched as the need for specialist advice grows in tandem with the complexities and pitfalls of a creaking benefit system.

On my courses I see all the time how workers in housing, support or caring roles have no choice but to get involved in their clients’ benefits issues as there may be delays in accessing specialist advice.

As a trainer, it’s great to be able to equip people with the skills and confidence to be able to tackle their service users’ benefit problems without fear, and to go on and challenge bad decisions or incorrect awards.

Universal Credit Rollout

In the next few months, this fearless attitude will become even more important as all agencies and organisations involved with people on benefits and low incomes start to gear up for the introduction of the ‘full’ or ‘digital’ version of Universal Credit.

All working age people in the catchment area of Hove and Eastbourne Jobcentres will be in the scope of full service Universal Credit from October this year, Brighton JCP will follow in November, and basically nothing will be the same again! As soon as these areas go live, then all new working age claimants will be candidates for Universal Credit, even if they are working and only need help with their rent, for instance. Everyone will have to gear up for making and managing their claims online, for being paid once a month, and for coping with a delay of up to six weeks before the first UC payment is made.

There are special rules in place for people who are considered vulnerable, but they will be the exception. Existing advice agencies will as always be doing a great job in helping people manage the change to this new regime, but there will be even more call on the time and skills of non-advisers as clients cope with the changes.

UC is pretty straightforward once you get used to the rules and terms , so make sure you stay fearless and come to one of BHT’s upcoming preparation courses. See you in May, July or September!

Course Dates

Universal Credit comes to Hove – 31 May 2017

Introduction to Benefits (Eastbourne) – 20 & 21 June 2017

Universal Credit comes to Eastbourne & Wealden – 10 July 2017

Hidden Resources of the Welfare State – 13 July 2017 (AM)

Universal Credit come to Brighton – 27 September 2017