WORK to support residents through the impact of benefit changes will continue, a senior councillor has said.

Flintshire Council’s cabinet will be asked to support the ongoing work to manage the impacts that Universal Credit ‘Full Service’ (UC) and other welfare reforms have had and will continue to have upon Flintshire’s most vulnerable households when it next meets on Tuesday.

Welfare reform will, by 2020, have reduced expenditure on social security benefits available to low income working-age households by around £31 billion per annum.

Since 2012, the council, together with its partners, has worked to help the most vulnerable residents cope with the reforms and mitigate the full impacts of these reforms.

By September 2019, a total of 610 households had been impacted by the “Bedroom Tax”, representing a total deduction in benefits of over £500,000 per year.

Tenants affected by this have to find this extra money to pay their rent.

The number of households affected by the benefit cap was 206 in September 2019, an increase from the previous year.

Those affected by this reform tend to experience a greater reduction in their weekly income.

By September 2019, the caseload for Flintshire customers in receipt of UC increased by around 23 per cent to 7,137 in a six month period.

In November 2019, 575 council house tenants were receiving UC and 492 were in rent arrears totalling £564,293 (average £1,147 per tenant).

The impacts on rent arrears are also being experienced by other social landlords.

The “Help to Claim” model introduced by Department of Work and Pensions which moved UC assistance to Citizens Advice is raising concerns because the service does not include personal budgeting support and is only available to customers up to the date they receive their first full UC payment.

For this reason, the Council continues to provide budgeting support to our residents via the welfare reform team.

Councillor Billy Mullin, Flintshire Council’s cabinet member for corporate management and assets, said: “Since the start of Universal Credit, the council has seen unprecedented demand on services in relation to managing their finances, coping with the online systems and supporting customers to understand their claims.

“The welfare reform response team continues to support our residents particularly with personal budgeting, which in UC is particularly significant to customers who may be entering work for the first time, or have been in receipt of benefits for some time, and for whom moving to one combined monthly payment poses a real challenge.

"This shows our care and support as a Council to our most vulnerable households.”