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Top panel to judge national benefit awareness award

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Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Communities, Local Government, Universal Credit

Top panel to judge national benefit awareness award Top panel to judge national benefit awareness award

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Does your housing provider/council know which of its residents will be affected by this year's benefit changes?


A top panel of judges has been selected to assess a new award which seeks to showcase the best ways and ideas being used to communicate welfare reform changes to residents.

Payment collection specialist allpay has launched the ‘Welfare Aware’ award ahead of major changes to the benefits system this year which will see cuts to both housing and council tax benefit and the introduction of Universal Credit.

Deven Ghelani – one of the architects behind Universal Credit – will join a judging panel made up of Sam Lister, policy & practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, Michael Gelling, OBE, chair of tenants and residents association TAROE, 24housing editor Jon Land and Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion researcher Malen Davies.

Nick Peplow, allpay’s business development director, who is also on the judging panel, said the award – which is being supported by 24housing magazine – will shine a light on some of the most effective ways the changes are being communicated to residents.

The company provides rent and council tax collection services to landlords and local authorities and has been supporting its clients and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with their existing services ahead of the changes.

Nick Peplow said: “Communication will be vital to prepare tenants for the upcoming changes. We hope this initiative will showcase the very best ways and channels landlords and councils are using to inform tenants and residents of the changes.”

Jon Land, 24housing editor, said the changes to the benefits system pose a considerable threat to the financial prospects of society’s poorest. “It’s vital that councils and housing providers engage with those affected to ensure they’re aware of the changes and what support is on offer.”

Deven Ghelani, Universal Credit, welfare and employment specialist at the Centre for Social Justice, has created the first free, independent and publicly available Universal Credit Calculator on the internet which can assess the impact of welfare reform on groups of claimants.

He said: “2013 will be an incredibly important year for welfare reform. Forward thinking local authorities and housing associations are doing great things to make the transition easier for claimants, but many are struggling to cope. The 'Welfare Aware' award will highlight best practice and ensure that organisations use their scarce resources on what works.

“Some great examples I have seen through my work on Universal Credit and through the Welfare Reform Club include those local authorities and housing associations getting involved in the Universal Credit pilots, and seeking expert support with welfare reform where required to design the tools and support that local people will need.”

Michael Gelling, OBE, chair of TAROE, said: “Welfare reform will have a huge effect on many individuals in the social housing sector and this year will see turmoil develop in many people’s lives because of it.

"Seeing how Landlords communicate the issues to their tenants existing and new, in sensitive and supportive ways will be essential and those Landlords who achieve this should be held in high regard. This new ward should help promote that ethos.”

The award is open to all councils, housing associations and ALMOs across Great Britain. The award is seeking nominations which outline the communication channels used and any successes to date.

The entries will be judged by the panel in March with the winner and a highly commended entry receiving a day’s free training in utilising social media to engage with customers. This will be provided by communications specialists NS Design and Red Rocket Media.

The winning entries will be unveiled in 24housing magazine in April and invited to a roundtable day to discuss welfare reform at Worcestershire County Cricket Club.


How to enter

Entering the ‘Welfare Aware’ award is easy – simply fill out the online form here. You will be asked the name of you organisation, your strategy for communication to tenants and residents and any successes to date.

Entries can focus on wide-scale communication to affected residents or a particular campaign to target, for example, hard-to-reach customers. Likewise, a local authority may want to enter their approach for communicating council tax benefit changes, while a housing association may wish to enter their method of communicating several benefit changes to customers. We’re interested in the approach, the channel of communication and the content of the output.

The closing date for nominations will be 5 March. The judges will then assess the entries at a special judging day that month with the winner and a highly commended entry unveiled in 24housing magazine in April.

You can follow award updates on Twitter by following @allpay_welref and using the hashtag #welfareaware.

We will also be publishing the top communication strategies on the allpay and 24housing magazine website for other landlords and councils to view.

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