The ending of SBC Welfare Benefits Service should not compound poverty and disadvantage

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We, the undersigned require that Scottish Borders Council, in its redesign of the standalone welfare benefits service into the Customer Advice and Support Service must maintain the same standard of service to ensure the most vulnerable and deprived people in the Borders are not unfairly disadvantaged or face inequality of access to support services and income maximisation through benefits.

We request that SBC:

  • Employ Welfare Benefits Assistants or other staff who have a specific remit to assist with initial completion of form applications.
  • Regularly monitor and listen closely to Citizens Advice Bureaux on their workload with initial and pre-assessment support, including waiting times for the public to receive support.
  • Is able to offer a comprehensive service, giving advice on all aspects of the welfare benefits system -  from initial claims to representation at tribunals
  • Ensure that home visits are provided, at any stage, for those unable physically or financially to get around (this is not currently recognised in the Equality Impact Assessment)
  • Ensure there are sufficient staff resources within SBC for maximization of benefit entitlement in the Borders and to ensure that all receive their right to a fair hearing.
  • Acknowledge the error made in not carrying out any public consultation for the changes to the Welfare Benefits Service
  • Monitor and report on the impact on the groups with protected characteristics listed as negatively impacted by the Equality Impact Assessment (poverty, age, disability, and we would suggest, those classified as living in remote small towns, accessible rural and remote rural areas)

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