What advice and information as to the effects on the council and partners of Universal Credit introduction and fuller roll out has been sought and received from areas piloting the changed benefit system, such as Waveney DC, and what measures are under way as Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury Job Centres implement now, and Stowmarket soon?

I’d like to thank Cllr Matthissen for his question and for giving me the opportunity to update all Members on the great deal of work that is being undertaken by our staff to ensure that we are as fully-prepared as is practicably possible for the roll out of Universal Credit Full Service at Stowmarket Job Centre from February 2018.

First I’ll set out what have we done so far:-

  • · We are part of the Trusted Partner Pilot Scheme which was a DWP initiative to work closely with a range of different landlords to monitor issues and good practice
  • · Established a Project Group that is meeting weekly to attempt to mitigate the impact of the UC roll out
  • · Customer Service staff trained to ensure that they are equipped to deal with any questions at the Customer Access Points and prevent customers being turned away
  • · Housing staff were given in depth training from the DWP this week
  • · UC added to the Corporate Risk Log
  • · Working in conjunction with the Communications Team to develop a Communications plan.
  • · Officers are attending monthly review meetings with DWP, CAB and other local advice agencies
  • · Officers have held meetings with Waveney DC who have subsequently shared information documentation, which they are willing for us to adapt for our own customers.
  • · Sharing of best practice with other local authorities.

The implementation of Universal Credit and what actions Mid Suffolk are taking to ensure they are prepared for the significant changes ahead, is to be placed on the agenda for review at Overview and Scrutiny Committee (date TBC).

Looking forward, what will we continue to do? And, what else will we do?

  • · Ongoing liaison with the DWP Partnership Manager for Suffolk, who is the lead for delivery of the UC LA Learning & Development Pack to LAs
  • · Officers will continue to attend monthly review meetings with DWP, CAB and other local advice agencies
  • · Continue to monitor our progress against the project plan on a weekly basis, including careful risk monitoring and take action to mitigate risks as required
  • · Hold a briefing for all members on what UC is, what the impact is likely to be for our residents and what the impact is likely to be for us.
  • · All Mid Suffolk tenants to be sent leaflet highlighting the rollout of UC and sign posting to relevant advice services

Supplementary Question

Would you support the House of Commons Committee in its push for reducing the 6 weeks waiting time for Universal Credit to 4 weeks?

Answer

Yes, as it was originally envisaged that the target time would be 4 weeks.

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