Highland Council agrees £164k funding for welfare advice and support
The Highland Council Resources Committee has approved the use of £163,920 from the Council’s Welfare Fund to provide tailored welfare advice clinics across the Highlands, through the CAB network, starting in the New Year, from January 2015 until March 2016. This includes £3,000 to provide specialist training for CAB workers to provide advice to people with mental ill health.
Vulnerable people, especially those affected by mental ill health, need enhanced support and hand-holding to navigate the welfare system, including support in appealing welfare decisions and changes to benefits.
Chair of Resources Committee, Maxine Smith said: “The focus of the advice will be primarily on welfare benefits, but the service will also help to identify specific needs and provide advice on a range of other issues.
“The aim of the project will be to enable people to manage their finances more effectively and therefore become more financially stable. This should in turn help to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, which would lead to improved health and wellbeing.”
Vice Chair of the Resources Committee, David Alston: “I fully support this recommendation. The creation of our welfare fund gives us a more strategic approach and enables us to tackle specific needs. I met recently with the chair of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which develops research and policy on poverty and welfare issues. I believe that we need to take their lead and talk more directly about poverty and the strategies which can eliminate poverty.”
He added, “We rightly have an ambition for a zero-carbon Highlands - I think we can also have an ambition for a zero-poverty Highlands. As with climate change, we cannot achieve this alone but we must play our part in full.”
Members agreed that there should be evaluation of the work done to support people through welfare reform and to bring back reports describing the evidence of the impact on communities.
The Welfare Fund of £1.167 million was created by Highland Council in May 2014. The fund draws on underspent Scottish Government budgets for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and Discretionary Housing Payments.