With Universal Credit is now in place throughout the country, technical glitches and rent arrears will start to affect your clients. Welfare and Benefits trainer Jayne Knights asks: are you prepared?
“In my last blog, I wrote about this being an exciting time to be a benefits trainer, and even though I’ve now been in benefits world for over thirty years, it’s still true. Episodes such as the recent spat between Mr Osborne and Mr IDS, (in which the latter threatened to resign if the Chancellor used the Universal Credit budget to pay for the u- turn on tax credit cuts) continue to make things interesting. Yes, I know I need to get out more.
This exchange between senior Government ministers highlights how savings from proposed welfare reform have been factored in to the Chancellor’s plans for the country’s economic future. This means that, unless legal challenges succeed, seismic shifts are going to happen in the benefits system on an unprecedented scale. Universal Credit is now in place throughout every county, but the number of people eligible to claim is still small, and so the administrative faultlines are not widely appreciated. As Universal Credit numbers grow, however, the technical glitches and rent arrears will start to make an impact on your work, and it’s vital to be prepared. More dramatic changes are in store however, for which preparation will be crucial, and most of these are tied in with the passage of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which has now reached the House of Lords. We saw what the Lords could do when the tax credit cuts were firmly thrown out. However, it is unlikely that the Lords will provide such a robust defence when it comes to other cuts contained within the Bill, namely the lowering of the Benefit Cap, reductions and removals of the earnings disregards within Universal Credit, reductions in the calculation of Housing Benefit for people with new children, extension of the waiting period before owner occupiers can get help with their housing costs, and the freezing of most working age benefits for four years.
I’ve said many times on courses that it is vital to prepare your clients and customers for what is waiting in store. Now that the Government has backtracked on tax credit cuts, I think that any further changes of heart are highly unlikely. This means that, for example, if the reduction in the Benefit Cap is fully implemented, hundreds of thousands of people will have to make up a shortfall in their rent, with large areas of the country being unaffordable virtually overnight. In Brighton and Hove, this shortfall could be over£100 a week, due to the expensive rents we have here. It is likely that your clients will not understand the full extent of these cuts…and so you need to be able to explain the bad news, and what they might be able to do about it.
This is why we are delivering courses which will address the need to know what’s going on throughout the benefits system. We have devised a wide range of courses for the forthcoming year: Benefits for Beginners, Universal Credit, Welfare Reform, Benefits for Vulnerable People, Older People, People with Disabilities…..we even have some courses where there is such a thing as a free lunch!
As I said, there is a lot going on, you need to be in the loop, and I look forward to seeing you soon.”
Jayne is running the following courses in the area of welfare reform:
- Benefits for Beginners – 24th February
- Benefits & Vulnerable People – 8th March
- Universal Credit & Welfare Reform Workshop & Lunch – 24th March