Council to strengthen advice services ahead of benefit changes

Oaklands advising on budgeting and managing finances for people affected by the benefit changes

St Albans City and District Council is planning to introduce advice surgeries as part of new measures to support residents facing changes to their benefits next year.

The Government is changing the benefits system and is making technical reforms to Council Tax Benefit. As a result, the Council is expecting an increase in the number of enquiries received during 2013, especially in the first half of the calendar year.

On 14 November, Cabinet will assess provisional plans to help the 2,500 residents expected to be affected by the benefit changes.

These include:

• Advice surgeries for residents affected by the benefit changes.

• Information sessions with Oaklands College on budgeting and managing finances for people affected by the benefit changes.

• Extending telephone opening hours between mid-March and mid-April.

• Supplementing the number of people in the Customer Services team available to handle enquiries with staff from elsewhere in the Council.

• Opening the Council’s Customer Services desk for two Saturdays during March and April.

• Limiting leave to ensure there is sufficient staff available to handle the queries.

Cllr Julian Daly, Leader of St Albans City and District Council and Portfolio Holder for Resources, said: “The benefit changes will come into effect at a particularly busy time for the Council’s Customer Services team which is responsible for handling residents’ enquiries. Plans are being put in place to make sure those residents who require advice and support, receive it when they need it most.”

The meeting on 14 November is open to the public and will take place at the Council’s offices at the Civic Centre, St Peter’s Street, St Albans from 7pm. A webcast of the meeting can be watched on the Council’s website either live or at a later date at: .

The agenda for the meeting is available on the Council’s website at:

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