Council to ensure that Highland voice is heard on welfare reform

highland councilMembers of The Highland Council’s resources committee have welcomed the considerable involvement and work carried out by council staff on issues relating to welfare reform and have agreed to support the potential role of local authorities as financial assessment delivery partners for Scotland’s social security system.

A detailed report was presented to members at the council’s headquarters outlining information on Personal Independence Payment, Universal Credit, and the impact on future welfare reform proposals, the Scotland Bill, foodbanks, poverty and the financial implications for the region.

Among the details, members were informed that over 2,000 people in Highland are claiming Personal Independence Payment, and that over 80 per cent of Highland Council housing tenants who are also in receipt of Universal Credit are in arrears with their rent.

Alternative Payment Arrangements, the safeguard mechanism that pays the housing element of Universal Credit direct to landlords are proving to be an effective tool to help mitigate the impact of Universal Credit, lessen the risk to the Housing Revenue Account and reduce rent arrears.

Chair of the resources committee, Cllr Bill Fernie, said: “I would like to thank the staff in our Finance and Community Services (Housing) for the extraordinary detailed work they have carried out which will make a huge difference into the future.”

Leader of The Highland Council, Cllr Margaret Davidson, said: “We now have the capacity in Scotland to look at our welfare funding and I believe that we have the best informed officers in the country here in Highland. There is a huge role for local government and we need to continue to build upon the successes evident in this council whereby a single team in the Finance Service undertakes all financial assessments available from the council. Local authorities need to work with Cosla and bring the best suggestions and proposals to the discussion table in the evolution of changes that will come.”

She added: “Poverty and delays in funding related to low income are a major issue that must be addressed so that we can ensure that people don’t have to use food banks. When we take part in discussions nationally with our officers’ expertise on these matters we will also take our discussions to UK ministers to ensure that our Highland voice is heard.”

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