Benefit changes info campaign

A CAMPAIGN has been launched in the Borders to raise awareness of forthcoming changes to the benefits system.

Claimants are being encouraged to make sure they are aware of the changes, how they might be affected, and where they can get more information.

There will be changes to what benefits are called, how they are claimed and what people are eligible for.

The campaign is being led by Scottish Borders Council (SBC), and includes leaflets, posters and radio advertising.

David Cressey, head of strategic policy at SBC, said: “The change in legislation will undoubtedly affect many people who are dependent on benefits.

“We are working very closely with our local partners to manage the introduction of the reforms and to mitigate, where possible, the impacts on vulnerable people.

“The joint campaign is a key element of the considerable amount of work that we are doing to help claimants get ready for the changes.”

Some of the most significant changes are due to take effect from April 1, including those affecting housing benefit.

New under-occupancy rules will mean that all working-age claimants in housing association homes who have more bedrooms than they need will have their benefit reduced by 14 per cent for one extra bedroom and 25 per cent for two or more extra bedrooms.

All claimants likely to be affected are being contacted by the council and housing associations to explain the changes and suggest solutions.

Councillor Stuart Bell, SBC executive member for economic development, said: “It is absolutely essential that members of our local community understand how they may be affected and where they can go to get help should they need it.”

John Montgomery, manager of Peebles Citizens Advice Bureau, added: “As the major reforms approach in 2013, all the services that help those who stand to be adversely affected must work together to best mitigate the impact of reform and to support clients through challenging times.”