Purpose of Report
To provide the Joint Committee with an update regarding the national and local position of welfare reform, with a specific focus on the local advice referral process, Covid-19 support and discretionary housing payments.
That the content of the report be noted and an update be presented at the next meeting of this Committee.
Alternative Options Considered and Rejected
Reason for Decision
This report provided Joint Committee with an update on national universal credit changes; including a reference to the national statistics and national legislation changes.
The report also provided Joint Committee with an update regarding local advice referral into the welfare reform support team, national and local changes made to support those financially adversely affected by Covid-19 and an update on the financial position for discretionary housing payments.
As a result of Covid-19, there had been a number of changes made to legacy benefits, universal credit and support for those in or retaining employment, which had been reported previously. The £20 per week uplift in universal credit payment was due to end in the autumn of 2021. The Team would proactively support customers, where it was practicably possible, once the uplift had come to an end.
As a result of Covid-19, the welfare reform support team had been able to provide vital support to new and existing customers – both over the phone and via email. The team was able to explain to customers what support was available; to undertake assessments for universal credit, housing benefit, council tax support and discretionary housing payments; and to provide advice and guidance to the Revenues and Benefits staff regarding changes to legislation.
The report outlined details of the Covid-19 test and trace self isolation payments introduced from 28 September 2020 to support those who had been told to self?isolate and had a legal obligation to do so. The national scheme was due to end on the 30 September 2021.
As at 30 July 2021, in total the welfare reform support team had received 2,047 applications for Lincoln and 1,117 for North Kesteven for test and trace self-isolation payments or through the winter grant scheme, with 714 clients for Lincoln and 364 for North Kesteven having received a payment.
Latest figures for discretionary housing payments (DHP) spend showed an unallocated grant of £21,689 remaining for City of Lincoln and £18,789 for North Kesteven, This figure could be reflected against a total allocated fund of £138,379 for City of Lincoln and £95,525 for North Kesteven in 2021/22. However, these allocations were only based on 71% of the national grant allocation – a mid-year review is to take place nationally and further discretionary housing payment grants awarded to local authorities as appropriate. The first round of DHP grants for both local authorities had been exhausted and other cash-limited internal budgets being utilised until the second round of grants was announced by central government.
The council tax hardship fund, which had been part of the government's response to Covid-19, had been expected to be used to provide council tax relief, alongside existing local council tax support schemes for 2020/21. The amounts spent up to 21 May 2021, paid towards the year 2020/21, were:
The remaining balance of the awards would be allocated towards helping the most vulnerable with further council tax relief alongside existing local council tax support schemes for the year 2021/22.
Initial allocations were paid to eligible Council Tax accounts in July 2021, as follows: