Making welfare work locally: Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and Enfield Council
Responding to the benefit cap: intensive support to safeguard children, prevent homelessness and remove barriers to work
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council and Enfield Council have both developed responses to the benefit cap that involve a focus on intensive support to residents and working closely with other organisations.
In Stockton-on-Tees, where all of the 80 capped households have four or more children, the total number of children affected is 400, the borough council has used a ‘team around the child approach’ and developed data sharing agreements to help provide a joined-up service to families.
In Enfield, which was one of the four benefit cap pilot areas, 1,700 households were capped, two thirds of which included fewer than 3 children. More than two thirds were in private rented accommodation. Twenty-seven percent of all households lost over £100 a week. A strong partnership between the council, Jobcentre Plus and the CAB focussed on increasing work outcomes and preventing homelessness.
Both projects achieved positive outcomes for the families affected – achieved through focusing significant resources on providing them with support. By January 2014, almost half of affected households in Stockton had either become exempt or were managing the cap through budgeting or money management. By May 2014, around half of Enfield’s initially capped households were no longer subject to the cap. 560 of these had found work and a further 142 had moved to more affordable accommodation of their choice.
Key features of the work in Stockton-on-Tees
- Preparing for the benefit cap
In March 2012 Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council established a Welfare Reform Board bringing together teams from the council, local housing associations, Stockton and District Advice and Information Service (Stockton CAB) and other voluntary organisations. Information was shared between partners enabling early intervention.
- The benefit cap project: working together to provide intensive support
A CAB employee works with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council Housing Options Team to provide comprehensive, individual support to benefit cap households. There has been an impressive rate of engagement. 90 per cent received a home visit or appointment, and 80 per cent received ongoing assistance.
- A safeguarding approach
The council has approached their work on the benefit cap through the lens of safeguarding children. Using a ‘team around the child’ approach helps to ensure that all household needs are identified and secures support from all appropriate services.
Key features of the work in Enfield
- Establishing a multi-agency steering group and task force
Work started in April 2012 and a steering group and joint task force were established in October 2012. These included teams from across Enfield Borough Council, Jobcentre Plus and Enfield Citizens Advice Bureau. The task force co-ordinated the work and dealt with families losing over £100 a week. Other cases were matched against council records and where there was an existing relationship, were passed to relevant teams.
- A customer-focused approach to getting the message out
Care was taken to ensure that the taskforce was seen as a positive source of help and great attention was paid to wording on the letters and location of the appointments. Intensive tailored support was offered, for example to help address families’ barriers to work or to reduce their housing costs.