Tuesday 05 December 2017
In preparation for the planned July 2018 implementation of the new social welfare benefit scheme called Income Support, Housing and Social Security have started the process of writing to tenants and people claiming Supplementary Benefit.
This is the first step in a series of communications which will take place over the coming months to help inform people about the new scheme and to help them through this process of change. A series of focus groups will also be set up so that customers' views can be taken into account as new ways of delivering services are developed.
"This is a significant change to the current scheme of welfare support and we know that some tenants will be anxious about what it means for them" said Deputy Michelle Le Clerc, President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security. "And tenants have made it clear that they do not want to have to visit Social Security on a regular basis to manage their claims, and so we are looking at our internal processes to reduce the need for people to come in".
The current Rent Rebate scheme, which is only available to social housing tenants, will end. Instead, housing support and Supplementary Benefit will merge into the one Income Support scheme. The new scheme will operate according to a single set of rules designed to ensure that all households in Guernsey and Alderney can access financial support sufficient to ensure an appropriate standard of living.
Under Income Support, many more low income households will qualify for medical cover and a winter fuel allowance. Some people claiming Income Support will also qualify for a new Extra Needs Allowance if they have a need for extra support with energy costs, laundry or clothing costs, or food and special dietary costs associated with a health issue or disability.
Income Support is designed to remedy the existing system's inequalities and encourage those who can work, to work. Currently, social housing tenants can receive more financial help through the Rent Rebate scheme than tenants in the private sector. At the moment, there is no work requirement for non-working people under 65 living in social housing, unless they claim Supplementary Benefit. The new scheme will equalise support as well as the work requirement, and Social Security will be providing people with more information about their work requirements over the next few months.
Many low income households will be better off under Income Support. Some households will receive less cash benefit, but will qualify for medical cover and the winter fuel allowance. And some may qualify for the Extra Needs Allowance. Social Security will be writing to people in the weeks before Income Support goes live to let them know their entitlements under the new scheme. And decreases in cash benefits will be phased in over a period of up to three years, to allow people time to make adjustments to their income or circumstances.