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Glasgow City Council

Universal credits - fears for Glasgow citizens but supports announced

GLASGOW'S communities and some of its most vulnerable citizens will face unprecedented challenges due to the rollout of Universal Credit, council chiefs warned today.

City Treasurer Cllr Allan Gow said he fears the controversial benefit shakeup will mean hardship for many Glaswegians - and even put some households at greater risk of becoming homeless.

New claimants at Govan Jobcentre will be the first in the city to switch to Universal Credit, starting on September 19 - with others following between now and early December.

With around 12,000 people expected to migrate to the new benefit over the next months, the council is rolling out a £2 million financial and digital inclusion package to try and mitigate the impact on individuals, families and communities.

Similar rollouts in other parts of the UK have posed huge problems for claimants - with foodbank use and rent arrears rocketing. Meanwhile, the Government's own evaluation of Universal Credit has revealed hundreds of thousands of people struggling to make claims online.

Glasgow's bid to help claimants is believed to be the most extensive launched anywhere in the UK - and aims to deliver practical support at a community level; backed with a citywide helpline and online resources.

Cllr Gow said: "Universal Credit has wreaked havoc in every city and every community it has been introduced to.

"It would be foolish and hopelessly complacent to think Glasgow could somehow be immune to that. However, I'm not prepared to simply accept the hardship and the pain that we have seen unfold elsewhere.

"It is a bleak though, but success will limiting the rise in rent arrears or the increase in the use of foodbanks.

"We can't roll back Universal Credit, much as I would like to. However, by investing in the resilience of our communities and our city, I believe we can dull its edge."

As the new benefit regime is rolled out across Glasgow, anyone that needs to claim Housing Benefit, Income-Related Employment Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income-Based Job Seeker's Allowance or Income Support will need to make an online claim for Universal Credit.

Govan Jobcentre is in scope from 19 September, with centres at Laurieston and Newlands following on 26 September.

From 31 October, new claims at Partick and Springburn Jobcentres will be for Universal Credit. The final Jobcentres to be rolled out will be Castlemilk, Drumchapel and Shettleston on 5 December.

It is likely to take until 2023 to migrate all existing claimants to the new benefit.

Earlier this year, the UK Government published the results of a survey covering new Universal Credit claims across the country. It revealed widespread problems that Glasgow hopes can be minimised.

Claiming

The DWP's own analysis of Universal Credit found that only 54% of people were able to make their claim online without help - while one-in-four was not able to submit a claim online at all.

It was also discovered that most claimants did not have the documents required by the government to verify their identity.

While the DWP had expected a success rate of 90%, just 38% of claimants were able to verify their identity online. Even now, the government does not expect the success rate to hit 80% before 2024/25.

Sanctions

Sanction rates are high - 8% amongst jobseekers and 3% where claimants are in work. However an incredible 81% of all sanctions reaching tribunal have been overturned.

Payments

One-in-four new claims are paid late. During 2017, 113,000 new claims were paid an average of four weeks late.

Government data reveals 60% of new claimants need to ask for an advance in order to manage while they await their first payment.

It is estimated that up to 338,000 claims will be paid late during 2018.

Impact

Foodbanks

  • Research by the Trussell Trust suggests foodbank use in UC full service areas increased by 30% in the six months after roll-out, compared to 12% in non-UC areas.
  • Hastings reported an 80% increase.

Housing

  • Local authorities, housing associations and private landlords have seen an increase in arrears.
  • Average arrears equal to 2-3 months' rent.
  • Growing reluctance among private landlords to rent to UC claimants.

Other services

Jobcentres report introducing resilience training for staff, who are dealing with clients exhibiting a greater ranger and severity of health issues.

Support Services

GLASGOW has built a huge network of citywide and community-based support services in a bid to prevent a benefit shakeup causing hardship and homelessness across the city.

The city council is funding a £2 million project to help Glaswegians transitioning to Universal Credit; a controversial benefit that has seen rent arrears and foodbank use soar elsewhere in the UK.

Support includes a new network of 19 Universal Credit Hubs, spread across the city, along with a free helpline and live webchat.

Glasgow will also work with the DWP to pilot a new way of handling claims made by its most vulnerable citizens - with the aim of reducing benefit sanctions.

The city's bid to help is believed to be the most extensive launched anywhere in the UK

New claimants at Govan Jobcentre will be the first in the city to switch to Universal Credit, starting on September 19 - with others following between now and early December.

With around 12,000 people expected to migrate to the new benefit over the next months, the council is rolling out a financial and digital inclusion package to try and mitigate the impact on individuals, families and communities.

Similar rollouts in other parts of the UK have posed hug problems for claimants - with foodbank use and rent arrears rocketing. Meanwhile, the Government's own evaluation of Universal Credit has revealed hundreds of thousands of people struggling to make claims online.

City Treasurer Cllr Allan Gow said: "Every town and city across the UK has its own Universal Credit horror story - from massive spikes in demand for foodbanks, to landlords refusing to house claimants because of rent arrears.

"Glasgow has more experience of dealing with this sort of challenge than almost anywhere - and we are very fortunate to have solid support networks that we can build on.

"But the fact we felt it was essential to invest heavily in those networks and the resilience of our communities, just to survive Universal Credit, tells you all you need to know.

"We're not aware of any other city or community building support for Universal Credit claimants on this kind of scale."

Integral to the project are a network of 19 Universal Credit Hubs being established in Anniesland, Bridgeton, Castlemilk, Cranhill, Drumchapel, Darnley, Easterhouse, Elderpark, Gorbals, Govanhill, Ibrox, Knightswood, Maryhill, Partick, Pollok, Pollokshaws, Royston, Shettleston and Springburn.

A free helpline 0808 169 9901 will be launched today - 19 September with online resources and a new webchat service available at www.gain4u.org.uk

However, a host of council family and partner services will also be providing a range of specialist support. These include:

· Glasgow Life will use its network of libraries to provide information, digital skills and support - with intensive training to ensure staff are ready to help UC claimants.

This includes making all library PCs available for online applications, with support for those without strong digital skills - and creating space within libraries to allow partner organisations to co-locate within communities.

A welfare benefits 'buddy' system will offer one-to-one support and advice.

· HSCP Welfare Rights will provide a dedicated Welfare Rights Officer will work with Glasgow Disability Alliance to support disabled people and help maximise their income.

There will be additional support for children and families, mental health, people accessing foodbanks and people accessing the Scottish Welfare Fund.

UC training is available for the wider support sector in Glasgow - including third sector, housing providers, financial inclusion services and other support organisations.

HSCP Welfare Rights will also support DWP benefit appeals.

· HSCP Homelesness will hire a dedicated homeless development officer and strengthen links to homeless services, employability, financial inclusion and other services.

This includes telephone and computer access alongside digital support within homeless centres.

· Simon Community will offer dedicated support to rough-sleepers.

· GAMH is being funded to arm support staff with tablets, allowing them to assist claimants in the community or in their own homes.

· GEMAP is hiring workers to providing dedicated support for residents in Cranhill, with Money Matters doing the same in Darnley. Both will be located in local community centres.

· Glasgow Disability Alliance will run a targeted disability benefit take up campaign, recruiting a Community Development Officer to work with and co-ordinate disability groups across the city and a Welfare Benefits Officer to support applications and appeals.

· GCC Development & Regeneration Services is establishing a hub for private renters; providing a base for new housing options officers and a housing condition and inspection team that will ensure properties are safe.

The hub will also offer access to employability and health support - and a dedicated Welfare Rights Officer to improve financial inclusion.

· Jobs and Business Glasgow will link Job Coaches to UC support networks being developed across the city.

· Citizens Advice Direct will manage telephone support services; directing customers to the most suitable financial and digital Inclusion services in their local area.

· Glasgow North West Citizens' Advice Bureau will deliver local skills-based services in Maryhill, Lambhill Stables, Wyndford Hub and Milton Arc.

· Govanhill Housing Association will manage local services, with a particular focus on support for people from the Roma community and where English is not a claimant's first language.

· One Parent Families Scotland will run specialist support for lone parents - including IT awareness.

· Parkhead Citizen Advice will hire a digital assistant to deliver training to staff, volunteers and new UC claimants - adding mobile devices to existing fixed terminals to increase capacity and flexibility.

Working with the DWP, Glasgow will also be the first place in Scotland to operate a safeguarding system; which can mean a different approach to claims where vulnerable citizens are affected by a range of issues - including mental ill-health and addictions.

It is hoped this will reduce the number of damaging sanctions applied to claimants - and, if successful, the approach could be rolled out across the country.

From 19 September, anyone in Glasgow who needs help to make a Universal Credit claim can call 0808 169 9901 or find out more information here

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