Diss homeowners will be the first recipient of a broad outreach initiative later this year as part of South Norfolk Council’s ongoing plans to help social housing residents and benefit claimants affected by the Welfare Reform agenda.
Social housing tenants will continue to receive assistance via a so-called Early Help hub, which will be formally introduced from this September, after a recent report revealed that the number of people in the district impacted by welfare reform had decreased due to measures such as Council Tax Support and Discretionary Payments.
Yvonne Bendle, the Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Health, said: “The whole principle of all this work is that we want to be proactive.
“We all know there is a lot of pressure on finances, and because of the significant cost to the state, what we are trying to do is intervene earlier.
“We want to get out ahead and help people who have problems and also stop the drain on government resources. The results so far have been quite phenomenal.”
The Early Help hub, a partnership formed in collaboration with various local organisations and care services, will aim identify the needs of individuals and families and offer practical solutions early on, in an effort to stop financial problems from escalating beyond an effective point of recovery.
According to the council’s latest set of findings, 8,000 people in South Norfolk claim Council Tax Support, which has reportedly helped claimants’ finances whilst simultaneously increasing the council’s tax collection rate.
Another 485 people have received support from one of two discretionary funds in 2013-2014, to help them cover shortfalls in either their housing rent or their council tax payments.
“In some cases, we find that people who had been paying their council tax for years have suddenly stopped,” said Ms Bendle.
“We have to see if there is a reason for that and if there is something we can do to help.
“Because of the welfare reform, the officers are engaging with more people who have problems and looking at what they consist of. I think they have done a wonderful job.”
In the future, South Norfolk Council say they have committed to their Home Options Scheme which help residents who have homes which are too big and need to down-size.
The council is also are giving higher priority to building smaller affordable homes, to lessen the effect of the so- called, and controversial, bedroom tax.