Agenda item

Universal Credit and Welfare Reforms - Six Monthly Progress Report

This report provides Members with a progress report regarding Universal Credit and welfare reforms as agreed by Cabinet in September 2014, including the work of the Welfare Reform Officer Group.




The Chairman welcomed Tracey Munton, Lauren Munson and Steve Randall from the Department of Work and Pensions.


Members considered a progress report regarding Universal Credit (UC) and

Welfare reforms, including the work of the Welfare Reform Steering Group.


A Member asked what the current waiting times were for UC applicants in Medway amidst concerns some had to wait for five weeks. DWP representatives replied that the five weeks were the assessment period of a UC claim, which were paid calendar monthly, and did not represent a delay. Claimants could request an advance of up to 100% of the claim on day one and were provided with information about re-payment figures and timescales for repayment. Budgeting support was also offered and claimants were made aware of the Local Welfare Provision scheme. Claimants were advised to claim for only what was needed. The advance was divided in up to 12 monthly payments but the Government was looking at possibly extending this period. 


A Member asked if there had been any changes to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) process. DWP representatives commented that they were looking to see if the PIP process could be streamlined and to ensure the mandatory reconsideration process was applied in a uniform way. DWP would make enquires to see if any changes to the process were planned and, if so, this would be shared with Members.


Members welcomed the introduction by DWP of Defrazzle cafes where people could access mental health support and be signposted to other services. This had started in Sittingbourne and was now a national programme that helped tackle social isolation. DWP undertook to look into a suggestion that the new community Café in the Rochester Community Hub could play a part in this.


In response to a query about outreach work in the community, DWP advised that DWP staff did as much outreach work as possible.


A Member expressed concern about the Local Welfare Provision (LWP) service. Calls to Imago went unanswered and messages were not returned. DWP advised Imago no longer provided this service and LWP had been delivered by the Citizens Advice Bureau since January 2019. However, a Member commented that the Council was still directing residents to contact Imago. The Chief Finance Officer undertook to feed this back to the service.


Reference was made to a recent spate of benefit sanctions applied by the DWP for seemingly odd reasons. DWP representatives expressed surprise at this as sanctions were a last resort and agreed to look into these cases. 




The Committee agreed to:


a)     note the work referenced in this report and recognise that the Member Task Groups recommendations are embedded in the Council’s policies, practices and contracts and those of its partners;


b)     note that, in line with the Cabinet’s decision that the Welfare Reform Officer Group should continue until the introduction of Universal Credit, the Group has now been disbanded, and;


c)     agree that reports in future should be on an annual basis and that at the next agenda planning meeting Members should discuss whether reporting should be to this Committee or the Health and Adult Social Care O&S Committee.



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