Birmingham has not been sitting on its laurels when it comes to protecting those who will be most affected by the new welfare reform act.
As part of Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Process, “Giving Hope, Changing Lives”, a seminar was held in July 2012 for practitioners from a range of agencies to discuss and develop solutions to the welfare reform changes.
Following this, a Welfare Reform Multi-Agency Committee was established, to make is possible for agencies across the city to work together to prepare for the welfare reforms and ensure a co-ordinated approach to support services.
From this an action plan has been developed by the city council and key partners, covering eight workstream:
i) Communications and Multi-Agency Advice
ii) The Impact of the Welfare Reform on Individuals (data)
iii) Case studies
iv) Financial Inclusion
v) Digital Inclusion
vi) Discretionary Social Fund (Local Welfare Provision Policy)
viii) Co-ordination of Crisis Support
To make sure that a cohesive and targeted response is provided, Birmingham has drawn-up a map drawn-up a map identifying crisis support for people affected across the city, as well has identifying areas that will experience multiple impacts of the welfare reform changes.
Chair of the Welfare Reform Multi-Agency Committee, Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion and Equalities, Cllr John Cotton said: “The city council is working closely with partners from across Birmingham – voluntary organisations, charities, community groups and others at the front line of supporting vulnerable people – to ensure that we have a properly coordinated response to these enormous changes.
“Many families and individuals will be hard hit by these changes. We want to make sure they get the help and support they need.”
The crisis support mapping is one of a number of initiatives carried out by Birmingham’s multi-agency welfare reform committee and identifies a number of organisations offering:
- emergency accommodation
- financial advice
- financial support
- food banks
- housing advice
- legal advice
Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC) is one of a number of organisations working closely with the city council and its Vice-Chair and Founder, Mohammed Al-Rahim, feels the co-ordinated approach will prove vital in the coming months.
Al-Rahim, who is also the President and CEO of Selly Oak charity Freshwinds, added: “This is an important opportunity for the voluntary sector to work cooperatively, together with the City Council and the local business community, to provide vital practical support to citizens of Birmingham in these challenging times, proactively sharing knowledge and resources to coordinate a truly effective response for all those experiencing crisis and hardship.
“The network has already achieved some important successes and this will increase as our membership grows in the coming weeks and months and beyond.”
With a can do attitude the Birmingham network has already achieved some important successes, but this can only be truly measured by the number of families that are supported through this difficult time.
Watch this space for updates on our progress …