Top

Top

Agenda Item No. 8

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources): 17th July 2014

 

Report of the Managing Director

 

Welfare Reform - Progress Report

 

Purpose of the Report

1.        To update Members on the work undertaken by the Council in implementation of the UK Government’s Welfare Reform agenda.

Recommendation

1.            That the report is noted and that a further update report be produced in 6 months.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.            To ensure that Members are kept updated

Background

2.        The final report of the Scrutiny Task and Finish Group was presented to Committee on 23rd April 2013.  The report was referred to Cabinet and the report and recommendations were endorsed by Cabinet on 8th May 2013. 

3.        The recommendations of the Task and Finish Group were as follows -  

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

 

(b)       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.

 

(c)        Further road shows are used to communicate Welfare Reforms with affected claimants and tenants.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

(g)       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.

 

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

 

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

 

(j)         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.

 

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

 

(l)         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.

 

(m)      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.

 

(n)       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.

 

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

 

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

 

(q)       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.

 

(r)        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.

 

(s)        As the financial year progresses expenditure on Council Tax support in included in financial monitoring reports to Scrutiny Committee (Corporate Resources).

 

(t)         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.

 

(u)       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.

 

Relevant Issues and Options

4.        Given the nature of the Welfare Reform agenda, the Task and Finish report reflected the position at the cut-off date of 31 March 2013.  The last update report of 23rd November 2013 outlined the position at the end of October 2013 and this report provides an update on position at the 30th June 2014.

5.        The Officer Working Group last met in May 2014 to review work associated with Welfare Reform across the Council. The Welfare Reform External Stakeholder Group continues to meet bi-monthly where local organisations can meet to discuss the implications of the reform of welfare and to consider opportunities for joint working. The latest minutes are 10th June 2014. The Council’s external website has been updated with the latest Welfare Reforms on its dedicated page. The Council Tax and Benefits specific web pages have also been updated to reflect the latest information available on the individual services and how Welfare Reform has affected them.

6.        At present, however, there are no new Welfare Reform changes taking place and neither has there been any publicised for the near future. An update of the impact of the previous changes are as follows:

 

Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS)

 

7.        Funding from Welsh Government has been allocated to fill the 10% shortfall in Council Tax Reduction for 2014/15.  Also Welsh Government have announced that this will continue for 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Council Tax Reduction Scheme expenditure and budget are as follows:

  • 2013/14 CTRS Budget £9,437,000    Expenditure £9,117,454
  • 2014/15 CTRS Budget £9,742,000    Expenditure £9,234,895

 

Council Tax collection in-year has been maintained

  • 2011/12   97.3%
  • 2012/13   97.6%
  • 2013/14   97.5%

 

Social Size Criteria (Bedroom Tax)

 

8.        The social size criteria only affects working age claimants where they are under-occupying their home.  There will be a reduction in housing benefit of 14% for under-occupation of one spare bedroom and 25% for under-occupation of two or more spare bedrooms.

Number of people who have had Housing Benefit reduced:

 

 April 2013

June 2014

1102

944

There has been a reduction of 158 people in the number of people affected.

 

Housing Benefit Reduction in June 2014

 

14% reduction

795

25% reduction

149

Total affected

944

 

Benefit Cap

9.        Since July 2013 (the introduction of the benefit cap), 54 people have been affected by the cap. As at 27th June 2014 the number of cases affected is 41 (a reduction of 13 claims).

If the household’s benefit entitlement is larger than the benefit cap the level of Housing Benefit payments will be reduced by the amount that is larger than the capped level.  This will only affect working age claimants where the amount of benefit will be capped at £500 per week for a couple or lone parent with children.

 

Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP)

10.     The DHP allocation from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for 2014/15 is £244,982 and the Authority itself has allocated a further £219,000.

 As at 27th June 2014 a total of £110,383.89 DHPs have been awarded.

 

DHP applications for 2014/15

 

Received

Granted

Refused

Waiting further information

Awaiting to be processed

324

163

67

30

64

 

 

The DHP allocation from DWP for 2013/14 was £219,639.  Total DHP expenditure for the year was £224,291 the shortfall of £4,650 was funded by the Authority. 

 

DHP applications for 2013/14

 

Received

Granted

Refused

1091

506

585

 

Out of the 506 successful awards the following areas were granted DHP

 

Impact on

Number

      £

Benefit cap

    3

    2,226

Bedroom Tax

312

118,831

Local Housing Allowance restriction

  52

  26,364

Other

139

  76,870

Total

506

224,291

 

 

Purpose of DHP

Number of awards

To help secure and move to alternative accommodation i.e. rent deposit

   8

To help with short-term rent costs to secure moves

147

To help with short-term rent costs while the claimants seeks employment

102

To help with on-going rental costs for disabled people

  24

To help with on-going rent costs

225

Total

506

 

Universal Credit

11.     This summer, Universal Credit will be rolled out to other areas in the North West of England for single Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) claimants.  DWP have stated that Universal Credit will start to make an impact on housing benefit cases in 2015/16 and managed migration of housing benefit claims for working age customer will commence in 2017.  However, local authorities will still need to continue to make provision for payment of housing costs into 2017 and supported accommodation cases will remain until at least 2018. Also payment of housing costs for pension age claimants will remain with the local authority for the foreseeable future. 

Council Housing

12.     As at the 30th June there are 588 Council tenants affected by the extra bedroom subsidy compared to 625 at the time of the last report. The reduction is attributed to tenants downsizing, change of circumstances, tenants vacating properties and the impact of the changes to the Council’s allocation policy.

13.     The Council’s dedicated Money Advisors continue to ensure information is provided to all tenants and as a result of the Authority’s Prevention First approach rent arrears for this group are well controlled and managed. The Money Advisors not only assist in direct issues relating to payment of rent but have been able to maximise tenant income through a range of measures which include charitable donations, foodbank vouchers and Dwr Cymru Water assist scheme to name a few.

14.     Arrears have decreased from £43,487(pre introduction of the bedroom subsidy) to £40,753 as of the 30th June. Of the 568 affected, 52% continue to have clear rent accounts, 15% of cases arrears are reducing with 33% under intensive management where arrears are still unstable and in some cases worsening.

15.     Significantly, however, the Department has not evicted any tenant where arrears are attributable to the Housing Benefit changes. Future mitigation measures include an increase in the supply of smaller units of accommodation with 20 one and two bedroom units on the site of the former Marine Hotel on Barry Island being provided this year. The development, in partnership with Newydd Housing Association, has been funded following a successful Council bid to the Welsh Government.

Social Services

16.     Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) have just started to be implemented for new cases of Disability Living Allowance or where a review is requested by clients in the working age group. Under PIPs claims could go up, down or stay the same.  The impact of this in terms of outcomes for the clients is still to be measured.  

17.     Similarly, applications for support through the Discretionary Assistance Fund are at an early stage and its success or otherwise will be monitored and reported.

18.     The Council also continues to monitor any increase in debt outstanding as people have less to money to pay their bills but with no noticeable change as yet.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

19.     The anticipated financial implications of Welfare Reforms were reflected in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 budgets. 

20.     Staff have been kept informed via team briefings, but as the transfer to Universal Credit has slowed, there have not been any significant implications as a result.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

21.     There are no direct climate change implications, however, the Council need to ensure that measures put in place to support welfare reform are financially sustainable.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

22.     The Council is required to administer Council Tax, Council Tax reduction and housing benefit in line with government regulations.

Crime and Disorder Implications

23.     Future changes to the benefits may have implications for crime and disorder.  

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

24.     Central Government and the Welsh Government have assessed the equality implications of the welfare reforms and the Council Tax support scheme.  The Council has assessed the implications of the discretions applied to the Council Tax reduction scheme in line with the regulations.

Corporate/Service Objectives

25.     The service objective is to administer and pay housing benefits and Council Tax reduction to eligible claimants.

Policy Framework and Budget

26.     The matter is for Executive Decision by Cabinet.  The responsibility for decisions relating to discretions in respect of the Council Tax support will be set within the regulations.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

27.     Ward members have not been consulted as the issue affects all areas of the Council.

Background Papers

Contact Officer

Alan Jenkins  - Head of Finance

 

Officers Consulted

Officer Working Group

 

Responsible Officer:

Sian Davies – Managing Director

 

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook