Welfare Reform Partnership Event 16th July 2015

  • Councillor Steve Sweeney, Cabinet Member for Communities opened the event and welcomed all the delegates
  • Carole Knowles, Libraries, Museums and Arts Manager gave a talk about Library Digital Landscapes: inclusion and more. Libraries offer free, one hour training sessions to anyone wanting to get online for the first time, with the option to book another session as follow up. Most of the sessions are delivered by volunteers. Library staff have been trained as Digital Champions to assist people in with navigating online and information and when to refer them for further specialist support.
  • Q: How do Calderdale Libraries promote their services to people who wouldn’t think of going to the library to ask for advice? A: Job centres refer people to the library for free access to computers and help with getting online.
  • Q: Do Calderdale Libraries have any plans to increase the number of computers or tablets available? A: This matter is being explored. e-books and e-audio books are available through the Council website.
  • Vicky Ledwidge from the St Augustine’s Centre, Halifax talked about their work in supporting asylum seekers, refugees and EU migrants and shared some of the human stories behind the statistics. Vicky and other volunteers from the centre visit schools to talk about their work and welcome the opportunity to talk to other groups about what they do.
  • Q: Is there anything more Calderdale could be doing to combat prejudice? How will the new welfare reforms affect St Augustine’s clients? A: St Augustine’s staff are available to speak to frontline staff and keen to speak at more events. Welfare changes could make it more difficult for St Augustine’s clients to access jobs and money but St Augustine’s will continue to support them in preparing to access benefits and getting ready for work.
  • Q: Why don’t asylum seekers make a claim in the first safe country they reach? A: This can be difficult for people who are being trafficked to Europe and is a reason why some asylum claims for people in Calderdale are not successful.
  • Q: What kind of working relationship do you have with G4S? A: St Augustine’s has a good relationship with the local G4S officer, who refers clients to them for support.
  • Kerry Maynard from Calderdale Council Revenue and Benefits Team talked about issues emerging from the Summer Budget and what these changes might mean for people in Calderdale. She also gave an update on the impact of other welfare reforms and the support and signposting available for anyone locally struggling to cope.
  • Q: How much is Universal Credit? A: The amount people receive depends on their housing costs- it’s not a basic amount like Job Seekers Allowance, so it is hard to give a figure without a specific case example.
  • Q: Can you decide which of your two children you can include when welfare support is restricted? A: No, but it is a rolling benefit, so if an older child passes beyond the eligible age and you have a third, younger child who was previously not included, the support will roll on to the younger one so you can continue to claim for two.
  • Q:The latest information on Housing Benefit for young people under 21 indicates that they will no longer be eligible if they are not meeting certain obligations. What are these? What does Earn to Learn mean? A: Information on exactly how this will work is still limited but it looks as if young people will be expected to engage with training, education and activities to help them find work in order to be eligible for benefit- it is about conditionality, in the same way as the Claim Commitment for jobseekers expects them to agree to do certain things to be eligible for the money they receive.
  • Q: What is the Living Wage and how does this compare to the Calderdale Living Wage? A: The government Living Wage will start at £7.20 per hour. Calderdale Council Living Wage, brought in last year is £7.65 per hour, approved by the Centre of Economic Research, Oxford.
  • Alastair McGregor from Calderdale CAB shared some statistics on advice trends and how queries in Calderdale fit with national figures.
  • Sian Rogers thanked everyone for coming and invited delegates to look around at the stalls of information about partner organisations.
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