Around 5000 of Glasgow’s most financially insecure citizens have boosted their incomes through the support they’ve received from Glasgow’s Universal Credit Support Hubs.
This has meant more than £15.2million in financial gains to the city for people, both in and out of work, who are entitled to welfare benefits.
Located in 19 libraries and community centres across the city, the hubs, staffed by UC advisors, have assisted 4966 people since September 2018 and the service currently sees an average of 320 appointments every month.
With claims having to be made and maintained mostly online, many claimants also used the services on more than one occasion to assist further with their claims enquiries. So far approximately 12,000 appointments have been made by people looking for help and advice.
The figures were revealed as Councillor Allan Gow, city treasurer, visited one of the UC hubs in Elderpark Library, in Govan, to hear first-hand from staff about the range of help and support they are providing to people on the receiving end of the UC migration and what sort of issues they are being presented with on a daily basis.
During his visit he met Jen Calley Universal Credit advisor, from Glasgow Life, who has been working in the hubs for more than a year.
Councillor Gow also met Robbie Bryan. Citizens Advice Bureau Advisor and Sharon Cardno. client support assistant from Jobs & Business Glasgow, just a couple of the other partners co-located in the libraries, who receive onward referrals from the UC advisors.
He also met a couple who had come in to seek help with their UC claim and needed further assistance with housing as they were likely to be made homeless in a month, if they couldn’t find an alternative.
Councillor Gow, said: “This visit was really informative for me. This model was innovative and a bit of a gamble for us, but it is working. Without the hubs I’ve no doubt, and this has been backed up with what I’ve heard today, that many, many, of our citizens would be lost and would be struggling, without this help.
“The figures speak for themselves. People are using the services and are receiving the support they need, from a range of different partners. However, this is not simply about UC but about holistic support; referring and signposting people to other sources of help as living on low income is often caused by and causes a myriad of interlinked problems.
“From speaking to frontline staff I’ve come away with some thoughts on how we might add value to what we currently offer and how we could improve things, especially around language barriers, and the need for translation service and interpreters. Also what other services might we want to partner up with or see co-locate with in the hubs.
The environment is constantly moving and we need to move with it. Of course there are are statutory, financial and operational limits with what we can do, but this kind of partnership working really maximises and multiplies the benefit of what we are doing.”
The council’s Universal Credit Support project was put in place to help some of our most vulnerable citizen’s cope with the change from legacy benefits to the new Universal Credit system.
Through carrying out individual needs assessments UC advisors have referred many clients on to basic digital skills classes, to ensure that they can maintain their claim online as well other co-located partner support including Citizens Advice, Jobs & Business Glasgow and Housing Benefits and wider support from GHeat, One Parent Families Scotland, local foodbanks, Glasgow Disability Alliance and Money Matters.
The visit was part of the council’s involvement in Challenge Poverty Week. A national week, led by the Poverty Alliance, where organisations large and small, public and private support activities around showing the reality of poverty, challenging stereotypes, highlighting solutions and increasing public support to solve poverty.
Universal Credit brings together a range of working-age benefits into a single streamlined payment. Universal Credit is a single monthly payment for people who are looking for work or on a low income.
Anyone that needs to claim Housing Benefit, Employment Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Job Seeker’s Allowance or Income Support needs to make an online claim for Universal Credit.
It is likely to take until 2023 to migrate all existing claimants to the new benefit.
Last February the council agreed a £2m budget to support a range of agencies in the city to deliver expanded financial and digital inclusion services focusing on implications that might emerge from Universal Credit full service roll-out in Glasgow
The libraries, run by Glasgow Life, use their network to provide information, digital skills and support – with intensive training to ensure staff are ready to help UC claimants. This includes making all library PCs available for online applications and creating space within libraries to allow partner organisations to co-locate within communities.
The Universal Credit Hubs are in Anniesland, Bridgeton, Castlemilk, Cranhill Community Centre, Drumchapel, Darnley Community Centre, Easterhouse, Elderpark, Gorbals, Govanhill, Ibrox, Knightswood, Maryhill, Partick, Pollok, Pollokshaws, Royston, Shettleston and Springburn Libraries.