Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser
Residents receive more than £30m in support
North Lanarkshire residents have received more than £30 million in financial support during a 12-month period thanks to the work of the area’s financial inclusion tea
Advisers carried out more than 35,000 benefit checks for groups including tenants, people on low incomes and those affected by cancer in the 12 months to March last year.
Council officials have praised the impact of the team’s work, saying: “The results for North Lanarkshire residents and the local economy as a whole are exceptional.”
The team is part-financed by Health & Social Care North Lanarkshire, and worked with that service to carry out 21,767 benefit checks generating £14.1 million for residents.
Staff also secured £12.9m for 5452 new and existing tenants by working alongside housing services; while local councillors, MPS and MSPS, NHS Lanarkshire and others referred a further 7906 people for welfare rights advice and information.
A further £2m in vital income was obtained by residents affected by cancer in partnership with the Macmillan Lanarkshire advice service provided by North Lanarkshire Council; while the team worked with several charities and energy suppliers to claim an additional £1.1m during the year.
Council statistics indicate that “for every £1 invested in income maximisation in the past year, £23.72 was generated in return for local people” and that the team’s work “ensured money went into the pockets of residents who often weren’t aware they were entitled to the benefits”.
Depute council leader Paul
Kelly said: “The finance inclusion team is making a significant and hugely welcome impact in tackling inequality across North Lanarkshire.
“Their work has meant that many people are now receiving benefits they were unaware they were entitled to.
“This is very important, impressive ongoing work which is helping to empower our residents.
“Debts have been written off and sanctions appealed
successfully, families have had access to grants and assistance in dealing with several factors which contribute towards poverty – and another important aspect of the team’s work is the success rate of 73 per cent of social security appeal tribunals.
“The size and complexity of the benefits system means general and specialist welfare rights services such as North Lanarkshire’s are crucial to individuals and families dependent on benefits.
“Successful interventions where individuals are awarded extra benefit frequently mean that, as a result of increased income, they are better able to manage their own affairs and often do not require further social work services.”
Councillor Kelly added: “The Covid-19 pandemic has brought inequality into an even sharper focus, highlighting the impact of low-paid and insecure work in particular.
“It has also had a significant
impact on people living in socioeconomic disadvantage – as well as specific impacts on children who were already living in poverty, or whose families have now been pushed into poverty.
“The true impact of the pandemic continues to emerge and it will take time for income and health inequalities to fully materialise.
“This means that it’s crucial that we continue to monitor this and act quickly to tackle the most severe impacts.”