What do you do?
I am chair of Hackney Advice Forum and also work for Social Action for Health, which is a Hackney based community development charity. I am employed to project-manage advice contracts, one in Hackney and one in Tower Hamlets.
What challenges is Universal Credit bringing to Hackney?
I think many advice providers will find some challenges around supporting people to make claims. I live in Tower Hamlets where full Universal Credit service went live last year and can see how it affected advice providers in the borough in terms of increased demand for advice.
The application process is completely online and it will affect people who have challenges around literacy, English as a second language, digital inclusion, disability and general difficulties in understanding of how to largely navigate the benefit system.
How does it affect community support organisations?
Hackney is very diverse and transient area, and there are a high proportion of people with English as a second language or no English at all. That is why people seek support from community organisations and advice providers within their own communities. They find it more comfortable expressing themselves in their own language so they feel better able to express themselves and explain why they need support. If they are supported effectively by the community organization, then trust is built up and they will then go back to those organisations for further advice.
What can be done to make the transition smoother?
Like any change in the welfare system, initially there will be challenges with (full live service) Universal Credit. The DWP needs to work with voluntary sector to make sure that community organisations are supported, particularly in terms of increased demand. There should be additional support around digital inclusion and general computer access, these are often things that many people take for granted but are important not to be missed through this process.
What is the Universal Credit Working Group?
The Universal Credit Working Group is a collaboration between Hackney Council departments, some key advice providers and Hackney Advice Forum (VSC) representative. The forum have given feedback through our representative around the importance of making sure the communication is as clear and as accessible as possible. For example, we are keen to produce information leaflets and posters in different community languages. The dialogue between statutory bodies and the voluntary sector is open and I think it’s important to stay positive.
Is there anything you’d like to add about the awareness sessions?
It’s important that the all front line staff try to attend the Universal Credit awareness sessions, arranged jointly by Hackney CVS and Job Centre Plus to ensure this reaches as many organisations and providers as possible.
Date: Friday 2 November Time: 10am-12pm
Venue: Hackney CVS, The Adiaha Antigha Centre, 24-30 Dalston Lane, E8 3AZ