Benefit changes information

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Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Social Work and Housing Committee learned last week that letters sent to council tenants who may be affected by housing benefit changes next year have elicited little response.

Over 750 letters were issued to council tenants of working age in receipt of housing benefit to advise them of the reduction in support their household might receive according to new rules set by the UK Government due in April 2013.

Only 11% (85 people) of those who received letters and leaflets were spurred into action to contact the authority to find out more or get advice on their circumstances.

The changes mean tenants in receipt of housing benefit who are under-occupying their accommodation by one bedroom will lose £8.43 per week based on their current rent liability and benefit entitlement.

The average reduction in housing benefit for working age tenants who are under-occupying their accommodation by two bedrooms or more is £16.53 per week based on their current rent liability and benefit entitlement.

Councillors will be asked to agree to further actions that will increase awareness of the changes not only to housing benefits but other reforms such as Universal Credit.

The council’s communications strategy around welfare reform aims to mitigate the impact of the reforms on customers, the community, the council, its various partners and stakeholders as well as the voluntary sector.

Local activity will complement any wider activity undertaken by the UK Government and agencies such as the Department of Work and Pensions and target Aberdeenshire residents.

Press briefings, seminars and workshops for a range of partner organisations including the third sector, tenants newsletter, staff training, engagement at tenant events, leaflets, information videos and face-to-face contacts are planned.