Related to: Employment and Economic Activity, Economic Growth and Business Start-Ups, Socio-economic Inequality, Mental Health and Illness, Fuel Poverty, Out of Work Benefits

Definition

A number of signficant changes to the provision of state welfare support have been both implemented and are planned to continue into the future.

Impacts in Bath and North East Somerset

Our approach to understanding the impacts and potential risks associated with these reforms is based on two principles:

  • That the reforms will result in a material reduction in income and that harms can be identifed which are associated with that reduction1
  • That it may not possible to distinguish impacts caused by general economic circumstances from the welfare reforms in particular

A range of data, both internal and external have been assessed, as a result a model to understand risks and impacts has been developed based on three groups of the population.

  • Wider social and economic impacts - These are impacts which are likely to affect the entire population
  • Impacts on vulnerable or newly vulnerable individuals and families
  • Impacts on the most vulnerable.

Wider Social and Economic Impacts

A study by the Financial Times and Sheffield Hallam university2 projected the local financial impacts of the welfare reforms on local authorities. In Bath and North East Somerset it was estimated that £40 million will be lost to the local economy.

As at October 20133, there was little evidence that these wider risks had been realised, Job seekers allowance claimant rates have decresed. There were limited recorded Crime and Disorder impacts, based on Police intelligence

Impacts on vulnerable or newly vulnerable individuals and families

These range of risks relate to individuals and families who may already be known to public services, or who are coming to notice for the first time remain present, fig. 1 provides some indication  of the volume of individuals and families affected as at October 2013.

The institute for health equality4 highlighted specific risks associated with this group.

  • Worsening health outcomes, particularly Mental Health
  • Domestic abuse
  • Family breakdown
  • Fuel Poverty/affordable warmth
  • Homelessness
  • Financial management. In particular local analysis suggested of the 12,000 households which claimed any kind of Council Tax Support in 2012, one in four had either over £10,000 in personal debt or three or more credit cards.

Local Impacts as of October 2013

Some early indicators of need were monitoried in October 2013 5,

  • A 220% increase in issued food bank vouchers (200 in Mar-Jun 12 to 660 in Mar-Jun 13).
  • Homeless applications and visits to Citizens Advice for debt probelms have remained stable. 4,800 households were registered on homesearch, of which 1/4 were clients of Curo.
  • 50% of people visiting the council's front office for benefits support were found to be in need of IT support.

Local Impacts update March 2014 6

  • There has been a month by month increase in people seeking housing advice from housing services. Prevention work has meant that this has not led to an increase in homelessness applications.
  • 800 Curo tenants in B&NEs were at notice seeking possession stage or higher and 124 of these were in breech of a court order.
  • Enquiries to CAB for benefits, tax credits and debt advice remain high, making up an average of 66% of all enquiries from July 2013.
  • Evidence from analysis of tenants facing pre eviction proceedings suggests that whilst they are likely to have council tax arrears, there a significant number who are no longer claiming out of work benefits, but people who are struggling on low or variable incomes.

Citizens advice enquiries update 2014/15

Overall numbers of enquiries to CAB for benefits, tax credits and debt advice actually fell from ~16,700 to ~13,700 from the financial years 2013/14 to 2014/15. The greatest numbers of enquiries were related to ESA, Personal Independence Payments, council tax arrears and child tax credits.

Impacts on the most vulnerable.

Within the above risks will be included those households already defined as our most complex or those which contain adults or children who are at risk of serious harm.

In April 2013, the local authority also took responsiblity for delivering local discretionary support (formerly known as the social fund), between that time and October 2013 there have been 420 claims for emergency support granted and 436 claims refused.

420 applications have also been made for discretionary housing payment, with a 46% success rate. All houses affected by the benefit cap have recieved awards.

Analysis has also been undertaken looking at overlapping risk amongst our population7 Early results have suggested

  • Money management remains a significant problem for households
  • 51% of the most vulnerable households have dependent children
  • The issues are not purely related to those households out of work, 69% of households are in-work.

Are we meeting the needs? 8

Council Tax Support

The overall council tax support budget in B&NEs has reduced over the past few years from just over £10m in 2012/13 to £8.6m in 2015/16. Of this budget for 2015/16, there is;

  • £4.4m for pensioners

  • £1.7m for vulnerable

  • £0.8m for working age employed

  • £1.7m for working age unemployed

As of 1st February the overall council tax collection rate was 83%, with the lowest collection rate from working age unemployed residents (69%).

Benefits Cap

Whilst numbers of claims affected by the benefits cap is low locally, the numbers of claims affected has increased steadily over time from 2 in August 2013 to a peak of 18 in January 2015 and has since fallen to 15 as of March 2015.

Welfare Support

The current budget commitment for local welfare support, including food banks is £320,000.  For the financial year 2014/15 there were;

  • 2817 applications
  • 1675 were approved
  • 548 were rejected
  • 371 were still pending
  • 223 were withdrawn

The large majority of payments made (by payment value) were for white goods (£115K), followed by food (£22k), CTax support (£21k) and supported accommodation (£19k). 300 of these claims were assessed as due to the effects of SSSC (bedroom tax) and 46 due to the effects of the benefits cap.