Benefits boost to help people begging in Glasgow city centre

People begging in Glasgow city centre will be helped to apply for benefits by a new roving digital inclusion officer, the local authority has announced.

Equipped with a tablet computer, the new digital specialist will work on the streets alongside the Simon Community Scotland’s Street Team – helping people to navigate the benefits system.

People will be supported to ensure they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to. They’ll be assisted to apply for forms of identification required to open bank accounts, helped to open accounts and to apply for benefits.

The full-time post is being created as part of a City Centre Begging Strategy and will be jointly funded by Glasgow City Council and Simon Community Scotland.

It comes ahead of the introduction of Universal Credit in Glasgow.

Councillor Allan Casey, chair of Glasgow’s City Centre Begging Strategy Group, said: “The benefits system can be complicated and confusing – especially if you have a chaotic lifestyle and no access to technology or broadband.

“The application process can be daunting, but this new digital inclusion post will take financial and digital support directly to the most vulnerable to help ensure no-one is missing out on the benefits they are entitled to.

“It will build on the established relationship the Simon Community’s Street Team already has with people begging in the city centre and is a great example of how partnership working can get to the heart of complex social problems.”

Robin Wallace, assistant director of Simon Community Scotland, said the new service would provide vital support.

He said: “This type of assistance is exceptionally important for people living on the margins of society. It will ensure people who need help the most, receive it. Our experience within the Street Team recognises that people can spend a large amount of time engaged in street begging, and less time engaging in support and connecting with staff and services, therefore it is imperative that we take this service to them.

“We will fund identification for those who need it to open bank accounts and help them apply for benefits. At the same time, we’ll encourage people to access other services on offer to help them improve their lives and their health.

“Working in partnership with our Street Team, the new digital inclusion officer will provide support which could be instrumental in getting their lives back on track and finding routes out of poverty.”

Recruitment for the new post is already underway and it is hoped the successful applicant will be in place soon. The digital inclusion officer will also work out of the new multi-agency city centre hub for homeless people which is due to open in early 2019. The hub will offer a range of services and will be open seven days a week. People will be able to access their online DWP accounts via a computer at the hub and receive assistance from staff. The hub may also be used as a correspondence address for people if necessary.

Possible premises for the new hub have been identified and negotiations are currently taking place to secure the lease.

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