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Welfare Reform in Fife

The current welfare reforms are arguably one of the most important policy reforms impacting on Community Learning and Development (CLD) partners at the current time.

Here in Fife it is expected that Welfare Reform will reduce the amount of income to benefit recipients by about 5% in Fife –estimates suggest this will be £33-£40 million across Fife.   As well as the individual and family impacts this will have consequences for local economies, particularly where there are greatest concentrations of benefit recipients.

The requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013 (CLD Regulations) look to ensure communities across Scotland - particularly those who are disadvantaged - have access to the CLD support they need and a CLD response to welfare reform will be part of this . Education Scotland CLD team has been running Creative Conversations across Scotland with inputs by practitioners exploring key aspects of welfare reform and its impacts.

Here in Fife CLD staff deliver directly at a community level and from the first welfare reform changes coming in, have fed back that:

  • a significant increase in people looking to use computers and that people need support in order to be able to undertake the online action DWP required in order to claim benefit – ie online job search through the Universal Job Match, use an e mail account and upload an electronic CV.
  • learners having to undertake these activities in their classes and are unable to carry out their literacy learning
  • need for coordinated points where advice and support is available
  • increased use of community job clubs
  • increased requests for support from the volunteers of Digital Fife to get people online

In response to this evidence from our staff and learners a CLD response to welfare reform was developed with 3 core elements:

  1. The development of welfare support assistant posts – delivering in community job clubs and other relevant venues.
  2. A volunteer coordinator who will develop a bespoke volunteering programme recruiting, training and deploying volunteers who are currently unemployed and who will benefit from a volunteering opportunity. They will support the digital skills courses.
  3. increased number of digital skills courses tailored to the need of claimants. This forms part of a digital skills framework.

 

Currently the welfare support assistant posts, 9.5 across Fife, and the volunteer coordinator post are funded from the Scottish Government Building Resilience Fund.  A futher 2 posts are core funded by CLD. 

These core strands are part of wider Welfare Reform Action Plans being coordinated at local area committee level.