New measures to help Eastbourne residents cope with sweeping welfare reforms have been officially welcomed by council leaders.
The council has introduced a package of schemes to monitor the impact of reforms and provide help and advice where it is needed, among the most vulnerable members of society. The measures were endorsed at a cabinet meeting this week.
Among the far-reaching reforms is Universal Credit which aims to simplify benefits by introducing a single payment to claimants. A spare room subsidy, dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’ has also been introduced together with a benefit cap.
The cap limits the amount of benefits a single person can receive to £350 a week and for others to £500 a week.
In addition, other changes have seen couples with children needing to work 24 hours a week with at least one person working 16 hours to qualify for working tax credits.
The council has responded to the changes with a series of new initiatives.
It has created a new Benefits and Welfare Officer post to provide direct assistance to those affected, secured funding to establish the East Sussex Welfare Reform Action group, which is training advisors and has set up a free helpline, 0333 3440681, established a working group with Eastbourne Homes and Jobcentre Plus to help those affected by the spare room subsidy, set up a process of reviewing the impact of the changes and the council’s responses, developed a mobile phone app to help people manage their money and maximised the effectiveness of increased funding.
Margaret Bannister, Eastbourne Borough Council’s cabinet portfolio member for communities, said, “The benefits landscape is going through radical changes and this is causing a great deal of concern among claimants, many of whom are worse off than before.
“One of our key priorities as a local authority is to work with communities to ensure they are thriving, and our package of measures aimed at assisting those on benefits is an essential part of this process.”