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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 25 January, 2016

Report of the Leader

Universal Credit Support Delivered Locally - UCSDL

Purpose of the Report

  1. To update Cabinet on the progress being made to engage with Job Centre Plus as a branch of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to deliver Universal Credit to local citizens.
  2. To seek approval to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Department for Work and Pensions for the introduction of locally delivered support for the implementation of Universal Credit (UC) by the Council from February 2016.

Recommendations

  1. That Cabinet note the contents of this report and approve the proposal to implement Universal Credit Support Delivered Locally - UCSDL.
  2. THAT Cabinet grants delegated authority to the Head of Legal Services, in consultation with Head of Finance and the Leader, to finalise the terms of the MOU with DWP to execute the same to deliver Universal Credit support to local citizens.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1-2 To provide Cabinet with an update on the progress being made to support the introduction of UCSDL to assist the local population to maintain their living access to Universal Credit with the Council's aid.

Background

  1. DWP state the purpose of Universal Support is to help people lift themselves out of poverty and to stay out of poverty - through work, saving and support. The aims of the Government's Welfare Reforms will be to:
  • tackle poverty and welfare dependency through a simplified welfare system that encourages and incentivises people to find work, reward responsible behaviour and protect the most vulnerable;
  • promote high levels of employment by helping people who are out of work, including people in disadvantaged groups, to move into work;
  • help people meet the challenges of an ageing society and maintain standards of living in retirement;
  • provide opportunity, choice and independence to enable disabled people to take an equal role in society;
  • make the most fundamental reforms to the social security system for over 60 years; and
  • introduce a wide range of reforms, some of which have already been implemented and others which will be introduced over the next few years.
  1. Universal Credit is replacing all of the following benefits:
  • Housing Benefit
  • Jobseekers Allowance (income based)
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (income based)
  • Income Support

Any help with rent costs will be included in the Universal Credit calculation and will not be paid as Housing Benefit.

  1. Universal Credit is paid differently from current benefits. It will be paid once a month, usually into a bank or building society account. For couples claiming Universal Credit, a single payment that covers them both will be made. Any help given towards rent payments will be included with the Universal Credit payment and claimants should then pay their landlord. Payments are a month in arrears. There is an option for an advance payment applied for by the claimant from the DWP. Once a claimant is in receipt of Universal Credit they will always be a Universal Credit claimant regardless of their change in circumstance, for example if they gain a partner or children or change address

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. To assist those local people who rely on Universal Credit, DWP have engaged with the Council to work in partnership to deliver a more locally provided service using a MOU - Delivery Partnership Agreement - Universal Credit Support Delivered Locally - UCSDL
  2. The MOU requires the Council on funding from the DWP to deliver the following locally.
  • Provide a local service provision from 22nd February 2016
  • Provide support to UC Service Centre Staff around housing cost issues
  • Support for claimants to get online and stay online by identifying public Internet sites and locations where trained staff can provide supported access
  • Manually processing the Local Council Tax Reduction scheme (only where UC has been awarded)
  • Support for claimants with complex needs and in particular those who require personal budgeting support
  • Work with Universal Credit Programme in preparing landlords for the implementation of Universal Credit
  1. Further discussions will be held with the DWP to refine the MOU thus ensuring that it is acceptable to both parties.
  2. The DWP are negotiating the funding made available to the Council on a case by case basis on estimates of the amount of claims the Council will need to deal with. At present it is estimated that to the 31st March 2017 there will be 1,123 UC claims of which 56 will require on-line support; 56 will require Personal Budgeting Support; 15 will require complex support and 326 will require basic UC support.
  3. The adoption of the MOU will support local citizens during the Governments Welfare Reforms as the knowledge and skills of the officers within the Benefit Section (Exchequer) is appropriate to deal with the requirements of the Council's commitment within the MOU.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The Exchequer Section can support this initiative from within its existing budget, together with the funding allocated from the DWP.
  2. The Vale of Glamorgan has adequate staff resources to maintain its current service provision for Housing Benefit and the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and to support this local initiative.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no direct climate change implications. The council needs to ensure that measures are put in place to maintain a sufficient budget to sustain the administration of Housing Benefit and the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. A MOU will form the basis of the relationship between DWP and the Council. This is a formal statement of intent from both parties to constructively engage and develop this project but not a legally binding document.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. Future changes to Welfare Reform may have implications in due course.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. There are no specific equality implications to a locally delivered service to implement the Governments welfare reforms. The on-line digital delivery cannot be implemented until the DWP has the appropriate software available to Welsh claimants.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The service objective is to administer and pay Housing Benefit and the Council Tax Reduction Scheme to eligible claimants

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. No specific consultation has been necessary with Elected Members.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Resources

Background Papers

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Finance

Officers Consulted

Operational Manager Exchequer

Operational Manager Accountancy

Benefits & Payments Manager

Responsible Officer:

Carys Lord, Head of Finance

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