Do you know what! I can see both sides of the Welfare Reform debate and I learn more each day. (Most of which scares me!)
I’m certainly no expert, and actually I don’t think there is anyone out there that is truly an expert in any of this.
Bottom line.. Country is in a huge financial mess… Deficit is over 6 times GDP and still growing… Would you get a mortgage with that kind of income v’s outgoings? If you were a creditor at what point do you say I’m out of here?
So we are paying out borrowed money which we cant afford and we are not making or earning enough for the lifestyle we have.
State has to pay out less Welfare and people have to start earning (I know its not that simple…. but its best way I get it! – Growth is solution).
There is little or no co-ordination across Government Departments as to how these changes will impact when seen as a package and whilst things like Universal Credit, Council Tax Support, Social Fund and other changes have some logic to them, the lack of cohesion means that the impacts are grossly in-equitable and will prove unmanageable.
At a local level we have been looking at some of these things and it quickly becomes apparent that when mapped these impacts hit the same communities time after time. The amount of money being withdrawn from these communities is huge and that will undoubtedly impact on the businesses that serve these communities. Which is just as likely to take money away from the state as it is to save it!
If the overall aim of these changes is actually to change peoples attitude and dependency on the Welfare state we have to do this in a more joined up way! and Local Authorities have a huge opportunity here! But they are only being given a tool box that is half full.
We have to start by looking at our localities and having growth plans that suit our people and their skills, we have to ensure that we deliver the right education and skills training. We have to attract the right kinds of business.
We have to help those already in work but on low pay to increase their capabilities for earning a fair wage and earning more. The changes in lower rates of tax are a big step in the right direction but they are already wiped out by limits on up-rating and tax credit changes this time around!
My biggest concern is still the confusion that surrounds gateways to all of the help that is available and the obsession with the pursuit of digital by default at the expense of getting it right first time, in the right place and in relation to the event that has occurred in an individuals life.
We really should not be asking DWP, Councils or Voluntary Sector to deliver support and guidance in these instances on a payment by results approach. It is the single recipe for disaster and almost certainly going to end up driving the wrong behaviors and the wrong outcomes for people.
Online access will be fantastic if it works and people will choose to self serve without being forced down this route if it is efficient and simple, but many people needing help and support because of their financial position are likely to be in a vulnerable state at the time they need it. They are also quite likely to need other services and support.
I’m now looking at the Social Fund and specifically the subject of Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans which will no longer be administered by DWP from April 13, and may or may not be resurrected in Councils across the land in many different guises.
I am now realising that this is a master stroke by DWP and possibly the biggest opportunity local authorities and their partners have to revolutionise the delivery of Welfare Support.
The key is about the conversations we have with customers, it’s about the way people access services and its about understanding. Once engaged we really need to ask the right questions.
For those most vulnerable and in need there are a lot of mechanisms we can use to help them if only we talked to each other… There is also a lot of duplication out there.. If we could iron that out we could make these resources stretch further.