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Welfare reform - support is at hand!

October 11, 2013

We are looking at what support is available locally in East Sussex for people affected by the changes to the welfare system.


Why is it so important for the voluntary sector to understand this?
We asked 3VA and SpeakUp Forum member Newhaven Community Development Association, who are one of the charities involved in providing free support and information. Their CEO, Penny Shimmin, explains:
“During this time of cuts and complex changes to the benefits system, it is really important voluntary organisations realise that professional advice and support is available across East Sussex. East Sussex Welfare Reform advice services have been set up to ensure organisations and the public can access free, timely, high quality advice on any query relating to the changes linked to welfare reforms.”

 

What is the Welfare Reform?
The Welfare Reform Act 2012 puts into law the biggest overhaul of the benefits system since the 1940s. The reforms are designed to save the government £18 billion. People of working age (16–65), who currently receive welfare benefits need to know about the changes and what they mean. Older people are largely protected from the changes.

 

What is changing?
These are just a few examples.

  • Housing Benefit - People living in a property owned by a council or housing association will lose 14% of their eligible rent for Housing Benefit entitlement if they have one spare bedroom, and 25% if they have two or more spare bedrooms.

  • Personal Independence Payments replace the former Disability Living Allowance for people with care and mobility needs. New claimants are assessed under the new rules and existing claimants are being gradually reassessed over the next three years.

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the new benefit for people unable to work due to incapacity. There is a new procedure and tests to see if an applicant is fit for work or not.

 

What help is available?
In response to these changes, East Sussex County Council has commissioned a range of new advice services under the banner of “East Sussex Volunteer Sector Welfare Reform” so that residents and organisations can access advice and support. Providers include Citizens Advice Bureau, Hastings Advice and Representation Centre and Brighton Housing Trust.
Benefit Changes Helpline Tel. 0333 344 0681
A benefits helpline is available Mon – Fri, 9am –5pm for advice about vulnerable clients. Alternatively a simple referral form can be completed on behalf of a client, outlining the query and emailed to triage@citizensadvice1066.co.uk.
For residents facing financial hardship, the new Discretionary East Sussex Support Scheme (DESSS) may be able to help. The scheme is cashless, instead providing goods or paying suppliers directly. DESSS Helpline 0300 330 94 94
 
Please note that there are ongoing changes and updates. To make sure you have the appropriate information, always check on
www.eastsussex.gov.uk/community/benefits.

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