TACKLING the problems raised by the recent welfare reform are being focussed on by East Renfrewshire council.
The authority will use £189,000 of the £800,000 it set aside to tackle problems resulting from the reform to give support to those residents who are being hit by the changes.
Cash will be used to take on additional staff, such as money advisers, with £40,000 going to East Ren’s Citizen Advice Bureau - which has also seen an increase in demand for advice and support.
The move is one of a number of measures ERC is taking in response to the UK government’s controversial wefare reforms.
Others include contacting all council and housing association tenants who have to pay extra rent because of the so-called Bedroom Tax and offering them specific, financial advice.
In the autumn, the council will host a community event along with East Renfrwewshire Disability Action group aimed at helping people understand the recent changes to Disability Living Allowance - which is now known as Personal Independence Payments for working-age people.
ERC has distributed more than 14,000 leaflets explaining the reforms and there is a dedicated page on the council’s website explaining the help available.
Plans are underway to ensure ERC can handle the next phase of welfare reform, including making certain IT and staff support is in place to help residents with Universal Credit applications.
Universal Credit, which will be administered by the Department of Work and Pensions, will be introduced to East Renfrewshire in phases from next year. Applications must be made online.
The convener for corporate services, councillor Ian McAlpine, said: “It’s clear that some of our residents are being hit hard by the changes to the benefits system.
“This has, inevitably, led to increased demand for council services as people seek help and support.
“That’s why we will now be spending £189,000 to ensure that support is there.
“However, with the next phase of welfare reform on the horizon, the pressures will only continue to grow.
“So it is vital that services are in place to support residents, which is why we are looking ahead to make sure we are ready to assist people.”