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10/31/2014 9:31:27 AM

Welfare Reform Act Northern legal process will take 'some 18 months' - Northern Ireland Minister for Social Development

Turn2us Universal Credit information


The legal process to put in place the Welfare Reform Act in Northern Ireland will take 'some 18 months', the Northern Ireland Minister for Social Development, Mervyn Storey, told delegates at a Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) conference this week.

Measures to address negative aspects of welfare reform

The Welfare Reform Bill Northern Ireland has not yet been made law and dates for introduction are still uncertain.

Mr Storey has set out a package of measures that would help address the 'negative aspects of welfare reform'.

These include:

  • Payments of Universal Credit to be made twice monthly by default with an option to move to monthly payments if the claimant wants
  • Joint claimants to be offered a choice of payment options
  • The housing element of Universal Credit to be paid direct to landlords with the freedom to opt out of this arrangement, subject to the claimant meeting specific criteria primarily around avoiding future arrears
  • Where one claimant refuses to sign a claimant commitment and leaves the household, that person will be excluded from the Universal Credit claim and the household will be able to submit a new claim for remaining members
  • The creation of a separate fund of over £17 million for each of the first years of the 'bedroom tax' policy (to be reviewed after five years) which will be used to protect current tenants from any reduction in the housing benefit for their existing tenancies until a significant change in their personal circumstances or they are offered suitable alternative accommodation
  • A reduction in the maximum sanction period from three to two years and removing the civil penalty provisions from the Welfare Reform Bill
  • Additional funding to be provided for medical reports as part of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) decision-making process and where a medical report has not already been provided, then one must be received prior to a claimant receiving an unfavourable decision (reduction or disallowance) on their benefit
  • Allowing lack of available childcare provision to constitute good reason for lone parent claimants not taking up offers of work or training
  • Introduction of a new Discretionary Support service which will provide non-repayable grants and interest-free loans to people on low income experiencing extreme, exceptional or crisis situations who have no other means of support
  • Creating a £30 million hardship fund to help overcome some of the most challenging impacts of the Bill.

Comment from East Belfast Independent Advice Centre's Manager

Mary McManus, Manager at East Belfast Independent Advice Centre, said: "We welcome the minister's package of measures to mitigate against the most negative impacts of the Welfare Reform Bill and to protect the most vulnerable. However, the evidence from England and Scotland shows that they will not protect the most vulnerable."

Sources: Rightsnet article (31 October 2014): Legislative process for Welfare Reform Act in Northern Ireland will take ‘some 18 months’ (link opens in a new window) and BBC News article (29 October 2014): Welfare reform concessions 'not enough to protect vulnerable' (link opens in a new window)

Read the Turn2us Universal Credit information

Date of publication: 31 October 2014

Also in the news



Employment and Support Allowance



Date of publication: 31 October 2014

10/30/2014 10:06:25 AM

Children suffer bullying and embarrassment as families struggle with school costs

Turn2us Education costs information

Millions of families across the UK are struggling with the cost of school with thousands of children being bullied and embarrassed as a result, new child-led research by the Children's Commission on Poverty reveals.

Nearly two-thirds of children living in the country’s poorest families say they are embarrassed as a result of not being able to afford key aspects of school. More than 25% said this has led them to being bullied.

More than three million — two thirds of all families across the UK — say they are struggling with the cost of school. More than half of the poorest families say they have had to borrow money to pay for essential school items.

'At What Cost? Exposing the impact of poverty on school life'

The Children’s Commission on Poverty’s report, ‘At What Cost? Exposing the impact of poverty on school life’, which was supported by The Children’s Society, found that state education is far from free. Families on average are spending £800 each year per child on school costs — £6.5 billion across the UK.

The panel of 16 children aged 10 to 19, from across England, who led the research, found that the cost of school basics like uniforms, meals, text books and access to computers is not only affecting family finances, but also undermining the poorest children’s opportunities and wellbeing.

Despite Government guidance that the cost of school uniforms should be kept down, the research found families are spending £600 million a year on them.

Children are also struggling with the cost of the increased requirement to use computers. A third of children living in the poorest families said they had fallen behind at school because their family couldn’t afford the computer or internet facilities.

Call to action from young commissioners

Young commissioners are calling on the Government to make sure that all children living in poverty get a free school meal and that uniforms are made affordable. The Government’s guidance also needs to be strengthened to make sure voluntary school costs really are voluntary. 

Cyrus, a young commissioner, aged 14, said: "As a young commissioner the thing that has stood out is how poverty isn’t just a physical problem, but has a mental effect on children. Children are being treated differently if they are living in poverty. They are made to stand out. They don’t have computers good enough to download the software they need to do homework. Some have stickers put on their books.

"If real change is to be made, schools need to be aware of poverty and its effects on children so they can support the child though the most important years of their life."

Comment from Children's Society Chief Executive

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: "Children are supposed to be benefiting equally from a free education. Yet the reality is that UK families are paying billions of pounds each year towards the cost of school. Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not right.

"The Government needs to listen to this crucial report by young commissioners and act to make sure no child is stopped from getting an education equal to their peers. It must stop children from being made to suffer because they are living in poverty."

Sources: Children's Society press release (29 November 2014): Children suffer bulling and embarrassment as families struggle with school costs (link opens in a new window) and The Guardian news article: Children's experiences of poverty in schools (link opens in a new window)

How Turn2us can help you find help with education costs

Turn2us has various resources that can help you find help with education costs.

School costs: help from the local council

Depending on which local council in the UK you live in, there may be help with costs including:

  • Free school meals
  • Travel to school
  • School clothing

If you are a parent or a guardian of school age children, and you are living on a low income, read the Turn2us Education Costs information section to find out how to apply for help from the local council.

School meals from September 2014 (England)

Starting this September, certain students will be able to claim free school meals.

  • All pupils in infant state funded schools
  • Disadvantaged students studying at sixth form and further education colleges

To find out more about the scheme, read Gov.UK’s free school meal press release (link opens in a new window)

Students 16+

For anyone who is thinking about carrying on with their studies and living in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they may be eligible to claim Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). The money is paid to students aged 16 – 19 who live in a household on low income.

Although the EMA scheme in England is closed, many schools and colleges have funds to award bursaries to people who need help.

Read the Turn2us Education Maintenance Allowance information

Benefits and students

It can be complicated trying to navigate the different rules relating to student benefit entitlement:

  • Special rules apply to many benefits for students
  • Full-time students are frequently excluded from certain benefits
  • The income students receive from grants, loans or bursaries can be taken into account for means-tested benefits.

For an easy breakdown of the rules on benefits for students, read the Turn2us Benefits and students information

Student grants and loans

Visit the Turn2us student grants and loans information section for more details of how these work and how to apply.

Turn2us Grants Search

The Turn2us Grants Search has information on financial assistance and other support offered by over 3,000 grant-giving charities. Many of the funds offer help to school age children and students in further/higher education.

Some of the help includes grants to pay for equipment, books and other items for students with disabilities or disadvantaged. Some funds also help by covering certain fees.

Due to the length of the application for some charitable funds, it’s important to apply as early as possible. 

Also in the news

Department for Work and Pensions


Date of publication; 30 October 2014

10/28/2014 9:44:18 AM

Places still available for Turn2us regional intermediary workshops

Information about Turn2us intermediary workshops


Are you an intermediary working with people in financial need? Would you like to know how Turn2us tools can help you find the financial help available to your clients through benefits, grants and other help?

Spaces are still available on the following free half-day intermediary workshops to be held in:

  • London 14 November - 1.30 - 4.30 pm
  • Nottingham 18 November - 10.00 am - 1.00 pm and 1.30 - 4.30 pm
  • Reading 20 November - 9.30 am - 12.30 pm and 1.30 - 4.30 pm
  • Derby 25 November - 9.30 am - 12.30 pm and 1.30 - 4.30 pm

To book a place or for more information, contact the Turn2us Training Co-ordinator at email:

Read more about Turn2us intermediary regional workshops

Date of publication: 14 October 2014

Also in the news

Care leavers

Child poverty



Date of publication: 30 October 2014

10/27/2014 10:40:46 AM

Jobseeker's Allowance: Waiting time before you can claim extended to seven days

Turn2us Jobseeker's Allowance information


New Jobseeker's Allowance claimants will have to wait for one week before receiving their payments under new rules coming into force today. This is the period before you can get JSA. Exceptions apply.

Unemployed people who put in a claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance currently have to wait three days before they can get Jobseeker's Allowance (waiting time) but this has been extended to seven days from today.

Claimants having trouble with their finances during the waiting period will be able to apply for an advance and will be offered help managing their household budgets.

Read the Turn2us Jobseeker's Allowance information

Source: Telegraph news article: Wait a week for jobless benefits (link opens in a new window)

Also in the news

Care Act


Food poverty


Older people

Universal Credit

Workers on low pay

Date of publication: 27 October 2014

10/23/2014 9:51:52 AM

Universal Credit timetable slips again as Government report is published

Turn2us Universal Credit information


The timetable to put more than seven million benefit claimants on the government’s new benefit, Universal Credit, has slipped again, Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has confirmed.

In a new report, 'Universal Credit at work', published on 22 October, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted it remained on course to secure substantial savings, and said early findings showed that Universal Credit, which replaces six current benefits, is increasing claimant job search and breaking down barriers to work.

Universal Credit Timetable

The DWP's original target was to have one million people on Universal Credit by April 2014, but the project has been delayed a number of times since its creation and MPs have criticised the way it has been managed.

The report states that 14,170 were claiming Universal Credit - a figure that is expected to rise to 100,000 by May 2015 and 500,000 by May 2016.

By 2017, all new claimants, whether with children or not, will be put on to Universal Credit, but no date has been set for existing benefit claimants to be transferred. This means that from 2016 to well into 2018, it is likely Britain will have a two-tier welfare system - some people will be on Universal Credit, but many people won't be.

Work and Pensions Secretary's comment

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “You have to have flexibility so we land this carefully – simply gathering everybody up and dumping them in at an arbitrary point does not work. Targets and arbitrary figures are one of the problems of programme rollouts that don’t allow you to achieve the change. I believe the more people understand Universal Credit, the more they’ll want it.”

He hoped everyone would be on the benefit by 2018, though he admitted some difficult groups might not be.

Comment from Citizens Advice's Chief Executive

Citizens Advice has issued a statement saying that the priority in delivering Universal Credit must be helping the millions of people affected by the Government’s flagship welfare reform.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“Delivering Universal Credit successfully means doing it safely for the millions of families affected by the reform. The principles of simplifying welfare and making work pay are sensible, but it is far too early to judge the success of Universal Credit. With nine in ten of our clients requiring assistance to deal with things like monthly payments and budgeting, strong support will be needed to help them. Many Citizens Advice clients have found that the new computer system for Universal Credit does not respond to changes in their personal circumstances, leaving them without vital financial support."

Further information

Read the Turn2us Universal Credit information


Also in the news


Older people

Payday loans

Date of publication: 23 October 2014

10/22/2014 9:34:50 AM

More than 100,000 households helped by Scottish Welfare Fund

Scottish Government website article: Help for 100,000 households (link opens in a new window)


More than 100,000 households, including 32,000 families with children, have received essential help to buy everyday products like nappies, food and cookers through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

The Scottish Welfare Fund consists of Crisis Grants - which provide a safety net to low income households in a disaster or emergency - and Community Care Grants, which help people to live independently.

Since the scheme started, 70,000 households in Scotland have received Crisis Grants and 43,000 households have received Community Care Grants.

Key figures

For the most recent quarter (April 2014 to June 2014):

  • Crisis Grants averaged around £70 per award. They were mostly given for food and heating costs and were claimed because of an emergency. They included:
    • £980,000 of grants given out for food – up from £300,000 during the same period last year
    • £7,000 for nappies and toiletries.
  • Community Care Grants averaged around £640 per award. These awards were most likely to be claimed by people to help them stay in or set up their own home or families facing exceptional pressures. They included:
    • £1.8 million in grants awarded for the refit of carpets and flooring
    • £2 million for cookers, washing machines and fridges
    • 130,000 for clothing and shoes.
  • One in four households receiving the awards had a recorded issue, such as mental health problems; were lone parents; were physically disabled; or suffered from a chronic illness.

Comment from the Scottish Welfare Minister

Welfare Minister Margaret Burgess said:

“It is heart breaking to see the impacts of welfare reforms laid bare, with people coming forward and applying for help to buy everything from food to shoes to beds.

"It is totally unacceptable that in a country as wealthy as Scotland anyone should be living in poverty and unable to afford items that many of us take for granted.

“These figures show that demand for the Welfare Fund is high and is reaching out to those in the most deprived areas of Scotland. That’s why it is important that we take forward our new Welfare Funds (Scotland) Bill to set out how welfare funds will operate within local authorities to help those most in need.”

Source: Scottish Government website article: Help for 100,000 households (link opens in a new window)

Use Turn2us resources to find help

If you are struggling to make ends meet, use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

The Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits, grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help.

Also in the news

Benefit fraud


Child poverty

State of the nation

Date of publication: 22 October 2014

10/20/2014 9:21:50 AM

Run the London Marathon 2015 for Turn2us

Turn2us London Marathon 2015 Golden Bond online application form

Last year over 35,000 people ran the 26.2 mile London Marathon course through the centre of London.

Running any marathon is a huge personal achievement. Running London is a particularly amazing experience, with supporters cheering you on every inch of the way.

Run for Turn2us on 26 April 2015

For families in financial hardship, just a little help can make a massive difference. Run the 2015 London Marathon for Turn2us and help to tackle poverty.

To secure one of our Golden Bond guaranteed places for 2015, please complete our application form. We’ll be in touch within 7-10 days.

“I’ve never done anything so hard in my life but I’m still in awe of the incredible crowd support, and it was simply brilliant to see all you guys cheering us on, even if I was delirious by that point. Thanks for all the help!” 


Turn2us London Marathon 2015 Enquiry form


Turn2us will be with you every step of the way

The London Marathon is a rewarding, exhilarating and challenging experience and it is important to prepare fully and train hard. We’ll be with you every step of the way to ensure that you have everything that you need to make it to the finish line. We’ll also keep you updated with all the latest news from your fellow runners, fundraising ideas … and of course we’ll be there on the day to cheer you on!

Apply for a place on the Turn2us London Marathon 2015 team

If you are interested in running for Turn2us, fill in the Turn2us London Marathon 2015 Golden Bond online application form.

If you would to find out more before you apply, email Zena Carter, Turn2us Head of Fundraising at: 

We’d love to have you on our team.


Turn2us London Marathon 2015 Golden Bond online application form


Also in the news


Civil service


New mothers


Personal Independence Payment

Universal Credit

Date of publication: 20 October 2014

10/17/2014 9:28:47 AM

End Pensioner Poverty - new Age UK campaign

Turn2us information for people aged 60+


An overwhelming 95% of people believe that more should be done to help older people claim the full range of benefits available to them, according to new Age UK research. The charity warns that many pensioners are floundering on low, fixed incomes and have been walking a tightrope in recent years as food and utility bills have risen dramatically.

How we can end pensioner poverty

The report, "How we can end pensioner poverty", published to support Age UK’s new campaign to End Pensioner Poverty, found that over half of respondents (53%) were completely unaware that so many pensioners are living below the breadline.

Upon hearing 1.6 million pensioners are in poverty, a fifth of all respondents felt angry; a quarter felt worried; and a third reported feeling shocked – with this number rising to just under half (44%) of those aged 16-24.

Huge numbers of older people are missing out on benefits

Yet despite high numbers of pensioners in the UK struggling to survive below the poverty line, with nearly a million of those living in severe poverty, each year huge numbers of older people are missing out on as much as £5.5billion of crucial financial support. Some simply do not know that they could be entitled to extra income.

Others are acutely aware of the benefits available but feel too proud or embarrassed to put in a claim. Some have unsuccessfully tried before or have been put off by the claiming process which they feel is too complicated or intrusive.

If those eligible for Pension Credit made a claim, on average it could boost their budget by over £1700 a year – that’s an extra £33 a week to spend on essentials such as decent food, clothing, transport or heating.

Older people are not just missing out on income related benefits; many are also entitled to benefits linked to illness and disability. The increased spending pressures that disability brings, such as needing to take taxis and using more heating, can leave even those on decent incomes at risk of poverty and financial hardship.

Positive impact of claiming benefits

There can be no doubt that the positive impact of claiming benefits is huge. In a recent survey of those helped to claim their benefits by Age UK, two thirds (65%) said they are now better able to pay their bills as a result of claiming; well over half (53%) felt they now have enough money to live on; a third felt more prepared for the upcoming winter (30%); and almost one-fifth (16%) said they use the health service less than they did before.

The impact of the extra support on general wellbeing is also considerable with 70% reporting they feel less stressed and anxious; two-fifths (39%) feeling more independent and self-confident; and more than a quarter (28%) feeling less lonely and isolated and generally treated with more respect and dignity.

Age UK's call to action

With so many older people struggling to make ends meet yet missing out on vital benefits such as Pension Credit , Housing Benefit and Council Tax support, Age UK is calling on politicians and decision-makers to urgently prioritise tackling pensioner poverty and help those who desperately need it.

The charity is asking MPs to support the End Pensioner Poverty campaign and urge the Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith MP, to urgently develop a national pensioner poverty strategy.

Age UK is also calling on the Government to provide a national training programme for health professionals and local authority staff to help older people who might be eligible to claim benefits such as Attendance Allowance and Carer’s Allowance to help maximise their income.

Age UK's Charity Director's comments

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: "Every day we hear heart-warming stories which demonstrate the transformative impact of claiming benefits. People tell us constantly what a huge difference the extra money makes and how much less they now worry about the cost of everyday life.

"Yet it is nothing short of a scandal that there are still so many vulnerable older people in the UK living in poverty – unable to afford decent food, heat their home or live an independent life – when billions of pounds in benefits are unclaimed.

"Now is the time for a concerted effort to help the very poorest pensioners – strong social support, affordable essential services and access to good quality information and advice are essential. We urgently need a comprehensive national strategy which sets firm targets and workable solutions to end the scourge of pensioner poverty once and for all."

Find out more about Age UK's End Pensioner Poverty campaign (link opens in a new window)

Sources: Age UK press release: 9 in 10 think more should be done to help older people claim their benefits (link opens in a new window)

Use Turn2us resources to find out what help may be available to you

If you are an older person, you can use Turn2us tools and services to find out what money might be available to you.

Check your benefits

You can check your benefit entitlement using the Turn2us Benefits Calculator

Are you eligible for a charitable grant?

If you are on a low income, you may also be eligible for help from a charitable fund. Use the Turn2us Grants Search to find support based on your circumstances, background and needs.

Further information

You may also find the following information useful:

Also in the news



Child poverty



Welfare trends

Date of publication: 17 October 2014

10/16/2014 9:39:44 AM

Shelter - Families’ health at risk as rogue landlords refuse repairs

Shelter news story: Families' health at risk as rogue landlords refuse repairs (link opens in a new window) 

More than 1 in 10 renting families have suffered health problems in the past year because of their landlords failing to deal with bad living conditions, research released today shows.

The YouGov survey of 4,500 private renters, commissioned by Shelter and British Gas, shows just how common these kinds of conditions are for renters – almost half said they’d lived somewhere with damp or mould in the past year.

Worse still, the study found that over 60,000 families were threatened with eviction in the past year, just for complaining about bad conditions in their homes.

Shelter's campaign to end 'revenge evictions'

The figures are released as part of Shelter’s campaign to end ‘revenge evictions’ by a small but dangerous minority of rogue landlords – a problem that’s especially worrying as more and more families are forced into private renting by high housing costs.

Shelter's Chief Executive's comments

Campbell Robb, Shelter's chief executive, said:

"Every day, we hear from parents up and down the country living in fear that damp or gas and electrical hazards are putting their children in danger, but feeling powerless to do anything about it. This has to stop.

"With a bill to end revenge evictions going through parliament next month, we now have a real chance to change the law and protect renting families. We're calling on people across the country to email their MPs and ask them to vote to end this unfair practice once and for all."

The Bill to end revenge evictions has cross-party support, and will come before parliament on the 28 November. Shelter is calling on people across the country to email their MP, asking them to go to parliament on the day of the vote to end revenge evictions for good.

Find out how you can participate in Shelter's 'Stop rogue evictions' campaign (link opens in a new window)

Source: Shelter news story: Families' health at risk as rogue landlords refuse repairs (link opens in a new window)

Also in the news






Young people

Date of publication: 16 October 2013

10/15/2014 9:39:17 AM

Child Poverty figures show huge variations

Child Poverty Action Group press release about child poverty (link opens in a new window) 

One in every two children in the most socially deprived areas of the UK live in families struggling below the poverty line, according to new research that maps the extent of financial hardship in the UK. This has been produced by the End Child Poverty campaign, of which Turn2us is a member.

A quarter of all children in the UK live in poverty

A quarter of all children in the UK live in poverty once housing costs are taken into account, the research finds, although this figure rises above 40% in some of the most expensive parts of London.

In a handful of UK neighbourhoods, poverty is so concentrated that more than 50% of local children are classified as poor. Campaigners said the impact of austerity measures such as welfare spending cuts, coupled with low pay, meant it was increasingly unlikely that the government would meet its aim of tackling child poverty by 2020.

Highest poverty rates

London performs badly, with 10 of the top 20 constituencies with the highest poverty rates in the UK.

Nine of the 16 most deprived neighbourhoods, all of which have child poverty rates over 50%, are in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets, where the wards of Bethnal Green South and Bromley-by-Bow record rates of 54%.

The other areas of concentrated poverty are in Westminster, Oldham, Leeds, Middlesborough, Burnley, Pendle, East Lindsey in Lincolnshire, and Thanet in Kent.

Tower Hamlets overall has the highest child poverty levels in the UK, measured on a local authority basis. At 49%, these are substantially higher than Richmond-upon-Thames, at the other end of the capital’s poverty scale at 15%, and almost five times the 10% rate recorded in Wokingham, Berkshire, which boasts the UK's lowest levels of child poverty.

Seven of the 10 local authorities with the highest levels of child poverty in the UK are in London. The other three are Manchester, Birmingham and Leicester.

Comment from Chair of End Poverty Action Group

David Holmes, Chair of End Child Poverty, said: “These figures reveal just how widely and deeply child poverty reaches into our communities, even those areas generally regarded as well off. Far too many children whose parents are struggling to make a living are suffering as a result and missing out on the essentials of a decent childhood that all young people should be entitled to. We can and must do better for our children." 

Sources: Child Poverty Action Group press release about child poverty (link opens in a new window) and The Guardian news article: Child poverty levels in UK mapped out by new research (link opens in a new window)

Use Turn2us resources to find help

If you have a child and are struggling to make ends meet, use our Benefits Calculator to check your entitlement to benefits and our Grants Search database to see if you are eligible for help from a charitable fund, based on your personal background, circumstances and needs.

The Turn2us Information and Resources section contains resources on benefits, grants and managing money, including useful links sheets and a Find an Adviser tool to help you find national and local sources of further help.

This includes a Turn2us Childcare costs information section

The Turn2us Educational Costs information section has information about the financial help that is available for those in education, who is eligible, how much you can get and how to apply.

If you have dependent children 16 or under, see also the Turn2us Expecting or bringing up a child information section. If your children are 16-25, see also the Turn2us information section for Young people

Also in the news


Older people

Date of publication: 15 October 2014

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