The changes, the first of which came into effect on 1 April, 2013 will have a significant impact on people of working age who are claiming benefits including Tax Credits.
To help those affected, Wolverhampton City Council and Wolverhampton Citizen's Advice Bureau (CAB) set up the Welfare Reform Benefits Helpline and response team - who can be contacted on 01902 572006 - to guide people through the changes.
The helpline, which was launched on 26 March, 2013 had received 415 calls in the month of April specifically relating to welfare reform. These callers were offered specialist help by welfare rights advisers about how it would affect a range of benefits they currently claim, including Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Living Allowance and Jobseekers Allowance.
The welfare rights advisers are on hand to guide people through the changes and how they may affect the benefits they receive, and speak to them about what support is on offer to help them out at what will be a difficult time for many individuals and families. The team is also offering advice to community groups and statutory and voluntary sector groups about the changes.
They can also check whether people should be exempt from any of the changes and whether there are any possible sources of alternative financial support available to them.
The helpline is one way in which those most affected by the changes are being offered advice. Organisations in the city, particularly Wolverhampton Homes, are giving their customers detailed information about the changes.
Wolverhampton Homes has contacted 2,600 tenants who are affected by the under-occupancy penalty because they have been assessed to be under-occupying their home, while 400 have registered for a special service matching these tenants with those requiring additional accommodation. It is also supporting tenants with advice on how and when to pay, and signposting them towards independent debt advice.
Other steps the council has taken to help people include freezing its element of Council Tax for the fourth year running, easing the burden on hard-pressed families, and launching an energy switching scheme which could enable customers to lower their gas and electricity bills.
In addition, an information bank has been created to enable public and third sector organisations to offer help and support to residents.
Councillor Roger Lawrence, Leader of Wolverhampton City Council, said: "I am pleased that the city council and its partners including Wolverhampton Homes and the Citizen's Advice Bureau are offering as much information and support as they can to people who may be affected by welfare reform.
"I would urge anyone who is unsure or concerned about how it may affect them to pick up the telephone and speak to one of the advisers as soon as possible."
The Welfare Reform Benefits Helpline is available from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, on 01902 572006. People can also email email@example.com.
- released: Wednesday 22 May, 2013