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28 February 2014

Welfare Reform in the East Midlands: The story so far

A major study into the impact of the Government’s welfare reforms on communities and councils in the East Midlands has been published by East Midlands Councils.

The work has been undertaken in conjunction with councils across the East Midlands to highlight not just the impact of recent reforms, but how local councils are responding to minimise any adverse effect on their local communities –  and highlights a number of examples of innovative good practice.

Key messages from the work include: 

  • There is evidence for a rise in social housing rent arrears and a decline in council tax collection rates – but measures such as the ‘benefit cap’ have had little impact on the East Midlands to date; 
  • The impact of the changes is not even – so far the larger urban areas and coastal towns have faced the most challenges;
  • Councils need greater local freedom and flexibility to address the under-supply of affordable housing – particularly for smaller properties and one bedroom accommodation;
  • Councils need greater freedom and flexibility to support people into employment and deliver strong local economies;  
  • Government must full acknowledge the financial impact on councils of administering the changes – and the impact this has on councils to plan strategically;  
  • Local knowledge is required to properly support people with particular needs – both with claiming universal credit and through managing local impacts of the changes using the ‘community budgets’ approach;
  • Council run Local Welfare Assistance Schemes have been a success – but there is significant doubt about their future now that the Department of Work & Pensions has decided to remove funding in 2015/16.

Cllr Jon Collins, Chair of East Midlands Councils said “This is a priority issue for EMC and an important piece of work. By monitoring the impact of welfare reforms as they are rolled out, including the extra burden it places on local councils, we will better placed to talk to the Government and partners and to identify how best to minimise any adverse effect on our local communities.”

Cllr Martin Hill OBE, Vice Chair of East Midlands Councils said: “Councils are key delivery partners for Government and closer to the people most impacted by the changes.  For the reforms to be successfully implemented, it is vital that councils work together with each other and with the relevant Government departments” 

Cllr Neil Clarke MBE, Vice Chair of East Midlands Councils said: “Welfare Reform is still in the early stages of implementation and the full impacts will not be known for some time.  However some clear trends are starting to emerge - as well as some very useful examples of innovate practice from councils across the East Midlands”

‘Welfare Reform in the East Midlands: The Story So Far’ is available on the EMC Web-site

This press release can also be downloaded

Contacts

For further information please contact:

Andrew Pritchard, Director of Policy & Infrastructure, East Midlands Councils

Tel: 01664 502620. Mobile 07795 060943

E-mail: andrew.pritchard@emcouncils.gov.uk

All news releases can be viewed on our website at http://www.emcouncils.gov.uk/Press-releases

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