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Community Planning Aberdeen hosts conference on Welfare Reform at AECC
Community Planning Aberdeen today [Friday 22 March] hosted a conference at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre to ensure the range of local services affected by the UK Government's Welfare Reform are aware of the changes.
The event also highlighted some of the proposals being considered and the work already undertaken by organisations in Aberdeen to fully support those citizens in the city who will be directly affected by the reforms.
Representatives from Aberdeen City Council, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), NHS Grampian and the Aberdeen Council of Voluntary Organisations (ACVO) attended the conference.
Aberdeen City Council Leader and chair of Community Planning Aberdeen, Councillor Barney Crockett welcomed guests and introduced the conference.
Dame Anne Begg MP, chair of the House of Commons Select Committee for the DWP was the keynote speaker for the event. Presentations were also given by John Dennison, district manager for DWP north of Scotland, Ken Milroy, chief executive of Aberdeen Foyer, Aberdeen City Council's revenue and benefits section and the Council's Head of Housing and Community Safety, Donald Urquhart.
The conference also featured a 'World Café' which offered a chance for guests to meet with the local organisations which will be affected by Welfare Reform.
Cllr Crockett said: "Welfare Reform will have significant implications for a range of organisations, not least Scottish local authorities, and the timeframe set by the UK Government for its implementation is extremely challenging.
"Community Planning Aberdeen has been proactive in the lead up to the implementation of Welfare Reform and will continue this approach as the changes impact on how services are delivered. The Welfare Reform conference is just one aspect of our preparations and helps ensure all our Community Planning colleagues are fully aware of the changes."
Aberdeen City Council Head of Housing and Community Safety Donald Urquhart added: "Aberdeen City Council is working proactively to adapt to this complex program of changes and we are undertaking a wide ranging communication exercise to ensure council tenants are aware of the potential impact.
"We will continue to work with our tenants, the wider community and Community Planning Aberdeen partners as we respond to the challenges presented by Welfare Reform."
The Welfare Reform Act completed its passage through the UK Parliament in March 2012 and received royal ascent on 05 March 2012. This legislation will bring about the most fundamental reform to the social security system since its inception.
Its primary purpose, as stated by the UK Government, is to deliver a system that is simpler and fairer while ensuring that work always pays.
Many of the proposed changes will not be introduced until April or later and include:
Consolidating a range of existing benefits to a single household benefit known as the universal credit. This will be paid directly into a bank account on a monthly in arrears basis;
Changes to the under occupancy rules concerning social housing benefit entitlement. This will involve a reduction in housing benefit for people of working age who are living in social housing, deemed to be too large for their needs.
Aberdeen City Council has identified approximately 9% of its 22,000 tenants who are likely to be affected by this;
Abolishing the discretionary social fund and transferring funding for community care grants and crisis loans for living expenses to the Scottish Government. Scottish Ministers and Cosla have agreed that councils will assume the operating role for the successor scheme, initially for two years;
A cap on the amount of benefits a household may receive, ensuring that an individual's total benefits package does not exceed the average working wage of around £26,000. The Department of Work and Pensions has intimated that 163 residents in Aberdeen will be affected by the cap;
Phasing out the disability living allowance and replacing it with a new personal independence payment which will be paid at two varying levels focussing on daily living and mobility elements.
The website www.welfarereformaberdeen.org.uk has been created to provide an overview of the changes and when they will be implemented.