A SEMINAR on Welfare Reform and the Universal Credit was held in the Council Chamber at CnES on Thursday the 16th of February to provide information for High Strategy planners from local organisations with regards to the impacts of the new welfare system on local poverty levels.
Presentations at the event were made by Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Oxfam, and the Citizens Advice Bureau, while participants included the Health Board, HHP, Northern Constabulary, Voluntary Sector organisations, and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.
Councillor Norman A MacDonald, Vice Chair of Policy and Resources at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “This was a very worthwhile and productive seminar, which has given us the opportunity to take stock of current and ongoing reforms and look at the best way forward in dealing with changes to the welfare system and tackling poverty in the Western Isles.
“We are faced with a period when welfare reforms are going to impact significantly on the lives of people in the islands, and it’s important that all relevant organisations work together to prepare for this and minimise the risk of vulnerable people slipping into poverty.”
Among the actions looked at and discussed during the seminar were: raising awareness with claimants; a universal Claim It strategy; strategic thinking about energy/housing and energy efficiency; and using the Credit Union and other local infrastructure to support people.
These actions will be discussed at the next meeting of the Community Planning Partnership on February 29th and the next meeting of Policy and Resources at the Comhairle on March 22nd.
Cllr MacDonald added: “I’d like to thank all those who participated in the seminar, and particularly the guest speakers, whose contributions informed the debate with regard to the wider implications of welfare reform.
“Today’s seminar was an important step forward in this respect, and the Comhairle looks forward to working closely with our partner organisations in the weeks and months to come to tackle this crucial issue.”