One of the biggest challenges the third sector currently faces is the impact of welfare reform on vulnerable people and the resultant increased demand on third sector services. The reforms have led to changes and cuts to a wide range of benefits, affecting people with disabilities, families and individuals both in and out of work.
A high proportion of Glasgow’s citizens are in receipt of welfare benefits of some description – 12 areas of the city have recently been identified as suffering most in Scotland from the impact of welfare reform. Across the city, low income households are struggling to make ends meet and are turning to the third sector to help in increasing numbers.
Mitigating the impact
GCVS is working with our partners in the third and public sectors to understand and mitigate the impact of welfare reform and to help ensure that the approach to tackling emerging problems and identifying key trends is effectively coordinated across the city.
GCVS established a Welfare Reform (WR) Expert Group in February 2013, at the request of members, following a major third sector event in December 2012. Membership of the group includes:
- Glasgow Disability Alliance
- Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations
- Glasgow Homelessness Network
- Glasgow Network of Citizens Advice Bureaux,
- The Poverty Alliance
- Glasgow Credit Union Network and, latterly,
- The Scottish Poverty Information Unit.
GCVS, with funding provided by the Scottish Government, have recently employed our new Welfare Reform Coordinator, Johanna Speirs, to support the work of this group. Johanna will enable GCVS to work with partners to collectivise real-time knowledge about what is happening on the ground to those who are most vulnerable in the welfare system. An early benefit will be that we will have more shared intelligence on the scale and impact of sanctions locally for example, for people with disabilities, lone parents and young people. The project will also work closely with Glasgow City Council to ensure effective links are made and a series of action research projects are developed to identify what helps to mitigate impact locally.
GCVS plays a key role in informing the sector of new developments and in connecting the work of the third and public sectors, through the GAIN network, to ensure that information is communicated to each in a timely manner, with the aim of ensuring that those in need of the support the sector can offer are able to get it.
To be kept informed of what we are doing and to keep up to date with all the latest developments and research you can:
- Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for regular updates on issues related to welfare reform.
- Sign up for welfare reform training
- Become a member to receive invites to special briefings and seminars on welfare reform and to receive our member bulletin.
- Visit our news page to read the latest articles about welfare reform.
- Follow us on Twitter
The UK Welfare Reform Act 2012 introduced significant changes to the welfare system – the main areas are:-
- The introduction of Universal Credit
- The gradual abolition of Disability Living Allowance and its replacement with Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) for working-age claimants.
- Reforms to Housing Benefit, including the introduction of under-occupancy deductions in the social rented sector; direct payment of Housing Benefit to claimants under Universal Credit; and the uprating of Local Housing Allowance by CPI.
- The abolition of Council Tax Benefit and its replacement with local discretionary payments.
- The abolition of the discretionary elements of the Social Fund.
- Reforms to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This includes limiting entitlement to contributory ESA to one year for those in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG); and removing youth provisions which previously allowed young people to qualify for contributory ESA without having the required contributions history.
- A cap on the amount of benefit a household can receive.
- Lone parents whose youngest child is aged 5 or over are no longer able to claim Income Support and instead must claim Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) – previously this only applied to lone parents when their youngest child was aged 7 or over.
- The replacement of Jobseeker’s Agreements with Claimant Commitments. These introduce the requirement for claimants to spend at least 35 hours a week looking for work.
- The implementation of a stricter conditionality regime, whereby those who fail to meet the requirements of their Claimant Commitment are subject to benefit sanctions.
Ministers voted for plans to place an absolute cap on the welfare bill in March 2014. This will limit total welfare spending, excluding Jobseeker’s Allowance and the State Pension, but will include the majority of benefits, including pension credits, severe disablement allowance, incapacity benefits, child benefit, both maternity and paternity pay, universal credit and housing benefit. If there is an overspend in one area then savings will have to be made elsewhere in the welfare system.
Our colleagues from Glasgow Homelessness Network have produced a policy briefing which provides further information on the changes and what they mean for claimants.
The Department of Work and Pensions has recently published an updated schedule for the implementation of Personal Independence Payments for those in receipt of DLA. DLA recipients in Glasgow will be reassessed from January 2015.
Following promises from the UK Government to devolve extra powers to Scotland in the event of a no vote in the Independence Referendum, and the findings of the Smith Commission, a document containing draft clauses has been published. These clauses include a number of new powers over welfare benefits, to be devolved to the Scottish Government following this year’s General Election.
GCVS is a key partner in the following networks:
The Citywide Area Delivery Group and Welfare Reform Subgroup, which are groupings of public and third sector partners working together to take forward the welfare reform aspect of the Glasgow Poverty Leadership Panel’s Action Plan for Change
Glasgow Advice and Information Network. GAIN is a network of agencies that give free, confidential and impartial advice.
The Third Sector Welfare Reform expert group, which brings together organisations linked most closely to the people experiencing the impact of the reforms to share experiences, knowledge, intelligence and connections.
Introducing Building Connections Glasgow
The UK Government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012 continues to have a massive impact on the people who live and work in Glasgow. In the last few years the voluntary sector has been quick to respond to these changes in the hope of supporting those who are affected, however in a climate of funding cuts and austerity this has been quite a challenge.
Building Connections Glasgow is an exciting new project for GCVS, which brings additional resource to the voluntary sector to help us take a more joined up approach to welfare reform.
Funded by the Scottish Government, the project has allowed us to employ a Third Sector Welfare Reform Coordinator, Johanna Speirs, who will work closely with the voluntary sector to help us respond as efficiently and effectively as possible to the impacts of Welfare Reform. Johanna’s work will include:
- Consulting and Networking
Speaking to our members and the people using their services to find out how they are being affected by welfare reforms.
- Scoping and Mapping
Finding, sharing and showcasing good practice examples of welfare reform mitigation, as well as identifying common barriers and gaps that cause difficulty for members and their service users to navigate the benefit system.
- Connecting and Engaging
Building networks and partnerships within the voluntary sector and the public sector; facilitating the sharing of information, evidence and good practice and highlighting the benefits of partnership approaches.
- Action and Research
Working with organisations, groups and service users to find innovative and creative ways that help people mitigate the impacts of welfare reform.
We want to hear from you…
Building Connections Glasgow would really like to hear from you if you:
- Have experience, evidence or information about the impacts of welfare reform that you would like to share;
- Are carrying out activities to mitigate the impacts of welfare reform that you would like to share with others; or
- Would like to be kept up to date with the latest welfare reform research, news and activity from Glasgow, Scotland and the UK.
If you would like to get involved with the project please contact Johanna Speirs, Third Sector Welfare Reform Coordinator or 0141 332 2444 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org