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Agenda Item No. 9

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources): 23 April 2013

 

Report of Welfare Reform Task and Finish Group of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources)

 

Welfare Reform

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To consider the final report of the Task and Finish Group on Welfare Reform.

Recommendations

1.             That the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) considers and endorses the report and recommendations of the Task and Finish Group.

2.             That the report is referred to Cabinet for consideration, and that Cabinet be requested to have regard to its contents and specific recommendations, as follows:

(i)           The Officer Working Group considers how services can be best coordinated to provide appropriate advice services and signposting for claimants, including hard to reach groups, in liaison with libraries, leisure, town and community councils.

(ii)          Communications on the implications of Welfare Reform to continue to be managed by the Officer Working Group via the communications plan, including the use of social media, C1V, local radio and the Council's web site.

(iii)         Further road shows are used to communicate welfare reforms with affected claimants and tenants.

(iv)         Members and officers are given updates on Welfare Reform as further developments require.

(v)          The benefits service continues to monitor data on over accommodation and liaise with social landlords (including the Council’s Housing Service) and tenants.

(vi)         The Officer Working Group continues to plan and respond to Welfare Reform changes as they develop.

(vii)        Action plans continue to be used to manage the risk and implementation of Welfare Reform and are monitored by the Officer Working Group and the Corporate Risk Management Group under the corporate risk management policy until the major reforms are implemented.

(viii)       The Stakeholder Group continues to ensure the there is a coordinated approach to Welfare Reform with all LSB partners in the Vale of Glamorgan.

(ix)         A revised Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) policy is developed for approval by Cabinet.

(x)          The issue of the Localised Support Services for claimants is taken forward via the Stakeholder Group with involvement of Officer Working Group and any framework agreement entered into for Localised Support Services is approved by Cabinet.

(xi)         The Council identifies and adopts best practice in the administration of Welfare Reform.

(xii)        Cabinet considers designating the Social Services Department as lead department in dealing with the implications of the Discretionary Assistance Fund and the change from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independence Payment.

(xiii)       Cabinet considers designating the housing service as the lead department in dealing with implications of Welfare Reform on the management of the Council's own housing provision and the implications for overarching housing services.

(xiv)        The local housing strategy and the housing asset management plans are reviewed and considered by Cabinet in the light of the impact of Welfare Reform on the enabling function and stock profile.

(xv)         Where policy decisions are required in relation to Welfare Reform, this is reported to Cabinet .

(xvi)        The Head of Financial Services updates the Change Forum of staffing issues associated with Welfare Reform as the situation becomes clearer.

(xvii)       Staff within Resources and Benefits are kept informed of issues by the Head of Financial Services in team briefings, with the staff newsletter and the core brief.

(xviii)      Future staffing implications are identified by the Head of Financial Services, included in the Council’s Workforce Plan and dealt with in accordance with Council HR policies as Welfare Reform develops.

(xix)        As the financial year progresses expenditure on council tax support in included in financial monitoring reports to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).  

(xx)         The impact of the revised DHP policy and increased funding is monitored and reported to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) initially on a six monthly basis.

(xxi)        That the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) receives a report on the impact of welfare reform within the Vale of Glamorgan initially on a six monthly basis.

Reasons for the Recommendations

(1)       To assist in identifying the impact of Welfare Reform and where possible mitigating the impacts on the Vale of Glamorgan Council and its residents.

(2i-v)   To ensure there is effective communication of welfare reform with relevant stakeholders.

 

(2vi-xv)            To ensure there continues to be effective management of Welfare Reform.

 

(2xvi-xviii)       To ensure there is effective management of the staffing implications of Welfare Reform.

 

(2xix-xxi)         To ensure there is effective scrutiny of Welfare Reform.

Background

2.             The enactment of the Welfare Reform Act will introduce the most significant changes to the benefits system for a generation, including the proposed implementation of the Universal Credit, localisation of council tax support and changes to housing benefit.  Members of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) considered it essential that the Committee carefully scrutinise the ways in which the UK Government’s welfare reforms would affect the Council and its constituents and consider the measures taken by the Council to implement the welfare reform changes.

3.             Consequently at the meeting of the Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources) on 26 June 2012 it was agreed that the priority topic for review should be Welfare Reform and the Implications of it to the Council and that this proposal should be forwarded to the Scrutiny Chairmen and Vice Chairmen Group. This Group agreed to the setting up of a Task and Finish Group.  The report of the Group is included at Appendix A.

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             Given the fluid nature of Welfare Reform it should be noted that this report is based on information available at 31 March 2013.

5.             Welfare reform will continue to be a key risk facing the Council, as the implementation of welfare reforms progress and the Universal Credit is phased in.  The scale of the risk to the Council is likely to reduce as the implementation of the reforms is completed.  It will be necessary to for the Council to continue to monitor the impact of the welfare reforms and reassess the level of risk.  It is likely that the risk will change from a key corporate risk to a departmental risk as welfare reform is implemented and the picture becomes clearer. 

6.             The Council will have to continue to take action to implement the various aspects of Welfare Reform which will affect Council services and service users. As Welfare Reform is implemented, actions will become part of the mainstream function of services. Until the Welfare Reform agenda is substantially complete the use of action plans will be necessary to continue to identify and address the issues the Council will be facing.

7.             There will be a continuing need for communication within the Council, with staff, between departments providing services, with service users and claimants and between the different agencies providing services within the Council area as the implementation of Welfare Reform continues.

8.             In the initial phases of planning and implementation of Welfare Reform, the Task and Finish Group has been a useful means of ensuring that the issues have been identified, brought to the attention of members and addressed with the right profile.  As Welfare Reform is implemented and the picture becomes clearer, the appropriate forum for dealing with consequences will change.  Many of the issues will need to be mainstreamed into existing services.  The Officer Working Group and the Stakeholder Group can deal with operational issues.  Where issues need to be raised with Members this can be undertaken through the appropriate scrutiny committee – Housing and Public Protection; Social Care and Health or Corporate Resources or Cabinet.  Where member decisions are required this will need to be agreed through Cabinet or Council as appropriate.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

9.             Resource implications of Welfare Reform are covered in the Task and Finish Report. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

10.        There are no direct sustainability or climate change issues.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

11.        The Council is required to administer council tax, council tax reduction and housing benefit in line with government regulations.

Crime and Disorder Implications

12.        It is anticipated that future Welfare Reform changes may have some crime and disorder implications.  Representatives of the Police and the Probation Service are included in the Stakeholder Group and possible implications can be considered at the Local Service Board and the crime and disorder partnership.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

13.        Central Government and the Welsh Government have assessed the equality implications of the welfare reforms and the council tax reduction scheme. The Council assessed the equality implications discretions applied to the council tax reduction scheme in line with the regulations.

Corporate/Service Objectives

14.        The report and the work of the Task and Finish Group will assist the Council and departments in meeting corporate and service objectives in relation to Welfare Reform.

Policy Framework and Budget

15.        The report and the work of the Task and Finish Group is in accordance with the Policy Framework and Budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

16.        As indicated in body of the report.

Background Papers

As set out in the Task and Finish Group Report.

Contact Officer

Clive Teague

Officers Consulted

Head of Business Management and Innovation

Operational Manager (Public Housing Services)

Principal Democratic and Scrutiny Services Officer.

Responsible Officer

Siân Davies, Managing Director

 

 

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