Maximising income through take-up campaigns and the living wage
The living wage was discussed by a range of local authorities as one way to improve the incomes of working families. Many authorities have already become living wage employers, but some are also looking at writing it through their procurement procedures, and believed that the Social Value Act 2013 – which places an obligation on public bodies to consider the social value inherent in any procurement – provides them with incredible leverage to do so.
One local authority we spoke to indicated that it was going ‘one step’ beyond this however, and on top of implementing a living wage, has embedded a commitment to positive working conditions and local apprenticeships in its mayoral charter.
In addition to increasing wages, family incomes can also be improved through the take up of benefits. The introduction of universal credit will produce many financial ‘winners’, but will also produce financial ‘losers’ who stand to lose money with the introduction of the scheme. To offset these losses, existing benefits claimants are being offered transitional protection, so that they will not lose out on payments so long as their circumstances do not change. When their circumstances change, they may be reassessed within the universal credit scheme, and may either ‘win’ or ‘lose’ compared to the current scheme.
Because of this, maximising transitional protection is one way to ensure that families continue to receive payments extending forward, so long as they have claimed the correct benefits now. Running benefits take-up campaigns now, before the roll out of universal credit, is therefore a potential way to protect family incomes in the short and medium terms.
A number of ‘check before it changes’ type schemes are being undertaken now, to ensure that families are on the right benefits, so they can enjoy transitional protection.
Blackpool Advice Link’s 'check before it changes' campaign
In Blackpool, Advice Link is promoting a C£eck before it C£anges!! Campaign funded by the primary care trust. Advice Link has produced a desk aid to highlight the implications and sources of information and support on the numerous welfare reform changes are taking place in 2013
As part of the campaign:
- Advice Link held a C£eck before it C£anges!! Event on 14 January. More than 130 members of the public attended and over £61,000 of potential cash gains for them were identified. There were 16 organisations represented which included the council, the public and the voluntary sectors. Among the advice and information provided were information on welfare reform, energy switching savings and social landlord and private rented changes.
- A leaflet,: Taking control of your money, with an integral budgeting sheet has been produced and is available for Advice Link Network partners from Advice Link and at council receptions.
- A C£eck before it C£anges!! article will appear in the free local newspaper.
- The funding is also providing extra outreach staff to support claimants before and through the changes.
- A regular Welfare Reform Briefing is being produced and circulated to frontline staff by Advice Link.
- Training and briefings on the welfare reform key issues are available from Advice Link.
Visit the C£eck before it C£anges!! page on the Advice Link website, www.advicelink.org.uk
With thanks to Pam Cochrane, Blackpool Advice Link.