Universal Credit – Help to Claim service update:
The new Help to Claim service began in April. It is aimed at supporting new claimants of Universal Credit as they claim, assisting with the online application process, helping people get together the evidence they will need for their claim, and supporting access to bank accounts.
We have been working hard over the last months to set up the new Help to Claim service. The government announced that the National Citizens Advice Service would be appointed to deliver support to new claimants of Universal Credit, as they claim the benefit – from April.
We have been working with partners locally in Salford (the DWP, Salford City Council, and other charities) to create a Help to Claim service that works well for Salford. We have a dedicated worker for each local Job Centre, and in addition to this, we are still in discussions to see if we can have a presence in the city’s gateway centres to support claimants.
As a part of the national service arrangements – clients will be able to access a phone support (delivered across the country by local Citizens Advice services using a national platform) as well as digitally.
Client Use digest:
In the last quarter (October through to December 2018) we have seen 4,769 clients, which brings the rolling annual number of clients to 20,761. This is slightly down on last year’s quarter 3, some 3% and some 0.8% down on the rolling 12 month total. Quarter 3 had slightly fewer working days than the last year’s because of the way holidays fell. The national service saw a 6% decline in people using the service over the same period.
The quarter saw a marked increase in Universal Credit issues (910 actual issues) compared to 237 in the previous quarter. This reflects the transfer of more people over to the new benefit. These two categories when added, broadly show no change.
Debt enquiries remained our next biggest area of work, with a very even profile over the year. Our debt enquiries are usually lower in quarter 3 than the rest of the year – as creditors give slightly more flexibility (forbearance) in the run up to the holiday period. This year has felt more pressured, with more clients having complex debts. We have also struggled this quarter with waiting times for national (Citizens Advice) support services which are relied upon to ease waiting lists. We think these are potentially worrying indications of ongoing and rising debt burdens.
Other noticeable changes between quarters 3 and 2 would be a 49% increase in the numbers of people needing help with emergencies (mostly food bank referrals), some 162 households. We note that this rate of increase is mirrored in other areas when Universal Credit is rolled out – as was the case in Salford in September.
The amount of total money gained for our clients over the last four quarters is £16.4 million with some £2.4 million of debts written off.
Nationally, the service’s client use has dipped over the year (some 6%). Some interesting contrasts between the national profile and that of Salford include a higher number of benefits (including Universal Credit) issues (54% Salford to 41% nationally), slightly lower debt (19% Salford to 23% nationally), and considerably lower numbers of people with problems with financial services in Salford (1% Salford against 11% nationally). These differences we think, are in keeping with our community’s considerably greater poverty levels than the rest of the country (being in the lowest decile).
Money Advice Service:
The Money Advice ‘face to face’ service – which across the North West is delivered by the Citizens Advice service was being re-tendered during the autumn. The current contracting arrangements involve the main contract being held by the National Association of Citizens Advice – who sub-contract to local services for delivery. The re-tendering specification called for a regional service (at Greater Manchester level) to be provided. Citizens Advice services in Greater Manchester with the support of our national association were working in partnership to bid for the new contract. However, with the creation of the new Single Financial Guidance Body – on January 1st – the new body announced that it would be halting the re-tendering exercise until further notice. New temporary contracts for an additional year, plus six months are being issued. The new Single Financial Guidance Body is also responsible for commissioning the Pension Wise service. This will also continue to be delivered on a Greater Manchester basis by the Citizens Advice Service for the immediate future.
There are no changes to local referral arrangements. We are however – on a Greater Manchester level, still working with partners to make improvements to existing referral routes into the service.
Homelessness Prevention Service:
We are delighted to announce a new service to support service users of some of the city’s homelessness charities – funded by the Edward Holts Trust, and which will support people using these services over a longer term than we are usually able to. The service also allows us to focus more on a service user lead approach with ongoing service user training and evaluation throughout the project.
Salford’s Private Rented Housing Market – Second Report:
We are delighted to publish the second report – of a planned series of three, into the working of the city’s private rented housing market – “The Housing Question”. We are grateful for the comments of Rebecca Long Bailey MP, who kindly launched the first of the series, and was so good as to read and quote on the second report.
We hope to organise an open meeting to discuss the work. and a copy of the report can be found here.
Salford Food Share Network developments:
The Salford Food Share Network – which was created to both further the work of food crisis work in the city – as well as to support the delivery of Citizens Advice services into the city’s food crisis services, has been approved as a new charity in its own right – a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). This should mean we are more able, over time, to secure additional resources to support food crisis work in the city, as well as improve the branding of the partnership. The next stage of the of this development is for the founding organisations (Salford Citizens Advice and Salford Age UK) to set up fully the new charity, transfer the members, and assets from the old company limited by guarantee to the new charity. This largely technical work should be completed over the next couple of months – and there will be no obvious change to the network’s work.
The latest food club – (the 6th ) will be opening next month at Langworthy Cornerstone. Added to this, a new food club in the Charedi community – Herschel Weiss Centre (the 7th) is due to open after Passover/Pesach. Discussions for a food club in Swinton are underway, but this is likely to happen in the summer.
We continue to develop the capacity and membership of all the existing food clubs in the city.
The work of Salford Food Share Network – and our broad community partnership in particular has been quoted as an example of good practice by the Greater Manchester Poverty Alliance – in their new Greater Manchester food poverty plan – launched earlier this month by the Greater Manchester Mayor.
A new outreach service is running from Broughton Hub every Wednesday afternoon. More details here.
We are delighted to announce appointment of a new chair to our board of trustees, Sue Lightup. Sue retired as Salford’s Director of Adult Social services three years ago, and has for the last two years been one of our vice chairs. Her insight, and great deal of experience has been invaluable to us over the last years and I am sure that she will continue to be a great asset to us, and to the city more broadly.