Council event keeps welfare reform high on the local agenda.

Renfrewshire Council has hosted a welfare reform event aimed at supporting local third sector organisations in their efforts to help vulnerable people affected by UK Government welfare changes.

Councillor Mike Holmes, Depute Leader of Renfrewshire Council, hosted the event in Paisley Town Hall (on Tuesday November 19). Over 50 representatives from community and voluntary organisations in Renfrewshire attended the event titled ‘Benefits are Changing – Providing Information and Support.’

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Presentations given on the day discussed Scottish Welfare Fund (June Reid, Renfrewshire Council); Discretionary Housing Payments (Barry Jardine, Renfrewshire Council); Development of Financial Skills (Alison Dowling, Renfrewshire Wide Credit Union); and Sharing Good Practice (Lynn Williams, Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations).

Councillor Mike Holmes, Depute Leader of Renfrewshire Council, said: “Our third sector has such an important role to play in helping and supporting communities who are being hit by the UK Government’s benefit cuts. Many vulnerable families go to local organisations looking for help and it’s vital that we keep sharing information about the support available to residents who are struggling.”

Councillor Mark Macmillan, Leader of Renfrewshire Council, unveiled plans for a £500,000 funding injection for Renfrewshire’s Credit Unions at the event. He said: “Welfare Reform continues to be the most significant threat to our area and we want to make absolutely sure we keep dialogue open with our third sector partners.

“Responding to the benefit cuts and helping the area cope is a top priority for this council and we’ve demonstrated this through a package of measures that include topping the DHP fund to its maximum and pledging significant funding to support a credit union initiative that will help residents gain access to banking and fair credit.

“But over and above the work we’re doing, we recognise the valuable work being delivered by local third sector organisation in towns and villages across Renfrewshire to support the vulnerable through these difficult times. I’d like to thank everyone who came along to our event.”

Courtesy of Renfrewshire Council

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Council’s new measures to support tenants facing benefit cuts

Renfrewshire Council is so concerned about the impact of benefit changes that it will now consider reclassifying homes where tenants are penalised by Under Occupancy Rules for having a bedroom which can’t be used because of disability or medical requirements.

This means tenants can apply to have their properties re-classified so that an extra bedroom wouldn’t be classed as a ‘spare’ but judged as necessary where no suitable alternative accommodation was available.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGThey would then not face reductions to their benefits as part of the Under Occupancy Rules – dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’.

The move is part of a package of measures that Renfrewshire Council has approved to manage the impact of benefit changes on its housing service and tenants.

There will also now be increased priority in housing allocations for tenants who are worst affected by the bedroom tax.

Renfrewshire Council has already agreed that, where tenants are engaging with the Council, it will not resort to eviction to collect rent due to bedroom tax.

The council has now gone further and has agreed that tenants with bedroom tax debt can still be considered for a move to downsize to a property with no spare bedroom, which will improve their financial circumstances.

Consideration will also be given to ending the right to buy for one-bedroom council properties.  The council’s housing stock is now mainly consists of flats as a result of right to buy and so the restriction may be applied to any houses the council has left which are in short supply.

That would enable greater flexibility in allowing tenants to move to properties that are more suitable for their particular circumstances.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, said:  “Welfare Reform is one the biggest issues to impact upon our area and Renfrewshire Council is generally regarded as being at the forefront of the approach councils are taking to try to help tenants, families and communities deal with the severe impact of the UK Government’s cuts.

“We are prepared to work with other social housing organisations and tenants’ groups to do all we can to give our tenants the help they need in these difficult times.

“I am pleased we taking steps to help those who are caught in the trap of the ill-informed Under Occupancy Rules.   These measures that we are now taking forward can make a real difference to those of our tenants who are on housing benefit and who are in an increasingly difficult position as a result of the benefit change programme.”

The proposals were agreed at a meeting of Renfrewshire Council on Thursday June 27.

Benefits are changing day

Residents turn out for welfare reform info event

Renfrewshire residents turned out to a special event to spread the word over wide-ranging and controversial changes to the benefits system.

The council-run ‘Benefits are Changing Day’ was held at the Tannahill Centre in Ferguslie Park, Paisley to raise awareness of UK Government’s welfare reform programme.

These include changes to housing benefit – dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’ – which will see cuts in housing benefit for social housing tenants deemed to have more bedrooms than they need.
Benefits are changing day
It is thought that the changes – due to come into effect on April 1 – will affect around 3,000 households in Renfrewshire.

Those affected will include council and housing association tenants, who could find themselves with less money to go towards their rent.

Visitors to Benefits are Changing Day were able to speak to a range of advisors about the help available to them.

Groups represented at the Tannahill Centre included the council’s housing, benefits and AdviceWorks teams, Renfrewshire Employability Partnership and Ferguslie Park Housing Association.

Councillor Michael Holmes, Renfrewshire Council’s deputy leader and welfare reform spokesman, said: “The UK Government’s welfare reform agenda will take around £22 million out of the area’s economy.

“Many of the people worst-hit by these changes will be the ones who most need help, with more people at risk of being pushed into poverty and homelessness.

Benefits are changing day

“As the council is the body responsible for administering these benefits, we are doing everything we can to make people aware of the changes and what they should do.

“Renfrewshire Council has created a 45-strong team to support and advise local people about the changes, and to help them with financial issues.

“Events such as the Benefits are Changing Day are part of that process, and I was pleased to see so many people turn out to take advantage of the help on offer.”

For more information about the changes, tenants should call their landlord. Anyone wishing advice about housing benefit entitlement can call 0300 300 0204 for more information.

More information is available on the council website at

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Renfrewshire residents offered support on benefit cuts

Renfrewshire residents are being urged to prepare now for major welfare reforms which could see them lose out on benefits.

Renfrewshire Council is launching a range of measures to help local residents prepare for the impact of changes being made to the benefits system by the UK Government under their Welfare Reform programme.

Councillor Mike Holmes, Renfrewshire Council’s Welfare Reform spokesperson, said: “The huge benefit changes being brought in by the UK Government are seriously worrying and what we’re particularly concerned about is that people don’t know about the changes or aren’t going to find out early enough for them to prepare.

“That’s why we’re taking action to raise awareness and provide as much information about the changes as possible, as soon as possible.

“We’re also keen to work with our partners wherever possible to support local residents so the Welfare Reform summit in December will be an important opportunity for local organisations to get together and discuss a joined up approach.”

Working age people in Renfrewshire could lose as much as £22million in benefits as a result of welfare reform.

The council is hosting two events in December, including a Welfare Reform summit with partner organisations, such as housing associations and advice providers, whose clients will also be affected in order to explore ways of working together to help local people.

The second event will be a Make the Most of Your Money Day in Paisley Town Hall on Thursday 13 December which will offer members of the public a chance to come along and speak to a range of experts and organisations about benefits, debt and money advice.

Information about the imminent changes will also be provided on the council’s website and social media sites, and staff training is being carried out to ensure key groups of council employees can advise the public of changes that might affect them and where they can get support.

The customer contact centre within the council’s headquarters is also being revamped to create more space to cope with anticipated increase in demand for services from the public.

In addition, eight young unemployed people have been taken on as trainees to provide further support for housing tenants affected by benefit changes. Over the next few weeks, the council will be sending leaflets to tenants expected to be affected by new housing benefit rules, often known as ‘under-occupancy rules’ or ‘bedroom tax’.

These rules will mean people in social rented accommodation who the government believes have more rooms than they need will have their housing benefit cut. In many cases this means the amount of housing benefit they receive will no longer cover their rent.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, said: “We’re sending leaflets to our tenants who are going to be affected by under-occupancy rules set to come into effect in April.

“This change alone is expected to affect more than 3000 households in Renfrewshire and could see more than £1.8million in housing benefit lost locally so it’s vital that we start to speak to our tenants now about what options are available to them.

The changes being brought in under Welfare Reform are largely aimed at people of working age, rather than pensioners.

To find out more about the changes go to

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