Moray is preparing for the biggest changes in welfare benefits since the 1940’s by organising a new campaign aimed at helping people cope.
There will be an increased need for assistance with finding work as well as receiving advice on benefits, money, budgeting and housing as systems such as the new Universal Credit is introduced.
In anticipation Moray Council has created a new central resource, the ‘Welfare MAP’ – an online guide that will help people locate advice and assistance.
Moray Council’s Project Officer for the Welfare MAP, Rosemary Pannell, said: “The guide is likely to be needed by a wide range of people.
“There’s sometimes an assumption that welfare benefits claimants are people who are unemployed. In reality, they encompass a much wider group including housing benefit claimants and families on working tax credits.
“The changes are not just about who qualifies for benefits and how much they might receive. There are also changes to the way in which people claim. This means people will need to be able to access the internet to do things they can do in person at the moment. So it’s really important that everyone knows how to go about doing that – either by accessing the internet at home or going to places where they can get help, such as the local library.
“These changes are going to have a huge impact on the way people have to claim, as well as to the benefits themselves.
“Universal Credit is being rolled out in Moray later this year. An element of the campaign has been to provide local groups that are able to support people with the changes online with equipment such as laptops or tablets to help people access the internet and to improve their online skills.
“But the largest single part has been to contact organisations in Moray and involve them in providing information to be included on Welfare MAP, so it is a useful aid for claimants.”
Leader of Moray Council, Councillor Stewart Cree, added:
“The Council is pleased to be working with our partners, including the voluntary sector to help people deal with changes brought on by welfare reforms. The Welfare MAP will be a great tool to improve access to services.”
The initiative is being backed by the Scottish Government and the Department of Work and Pensions, with Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess saying: “The Scottish Government is pleased to support the Welfare MAP which will make a real difference to many people in Moray facing challenges as a result of the UK Government’s welfare reforms.
“We are supporting councils to develop innovative ways of helping people become more aware of, and more resilient to, the impacts of welfare reform. Whilst we cannot fully mitigate all the effects of changes, we are taking a distinctive approach to protect vulnerable people in Scotland.”
As the changes are implemented they will, over time, affect those claiming housing benefit, jobseekers’ allowance, working and child tax credits, employment support allowance, Income Support and Disability Living Allowance.
More information about Welfare MAP is being circulated to more than 200 places across Moray from doctors’ surgeries to community centres, as well as to some of the organisations offering help including Keith Cancer Care, Step by Step in Elgin, FACT in Forres, Reach Out in Buckie, Action for children and CLAN cancer. An advertising campaign will also run in March.
Further information can be located online at welfaremap.moray.gov.uk