2019 starts with a punchy January, read the impacts we've made this month
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In this issue

  • Policy in Practice meets with the Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
  • Lord Fraser advocates the role of technology in homelessness prevention
  • Croydon’s data-enabled Gateway service nominated for LGC 2019 transformation award
  • A new Social Metric to measure poverty is debated in the House of Lords
  • Policy in Practice wins a pan-Wales data analytics tender to assess the impact of Universal Credit
  • Debt Symposium: Lord Bird says we should use public sector data to tackle poverty
  • Successful steering groups topped off by an evening with James Cleverly
Policy in Practice meets the Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
This month we met the Secretary of State to discuss her vision for Universal Credit. We talked about how to reduce the five week wait, the treatment of debt and overpayments and its impact on claimants, and issues raised by our partners on flexibility and consistency of advice.

The Department are listening to and learning from organisations with constructive solutions. This approach is both welcome and timely. The department can learn from the experiences of people who have already migrated to Universal Credit and respond to evidence gathered by frontline organisations that support them.

Read Universal Credit: A welcome change in direction, with more to do
We were also delighted to meet with Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Margaret Greenwood, to talk about our pre-Budget analysis on Universal Credit that was covered in the Guardian. We also discussed our evidence based recommendations on Managed Migration and alternatives to the five week wait, as well as evidence on the impact of the Benefit Cap.

Read Benefit cap - evidence submitted to the Work and Pensions Select Committee
Read Managed migration - blog post outlining our recommendations
Read The impact of Universal Credit on low-income households, following the Autumn 2018 budget
Read Options to smooth the implementation of UC (alternatives to the five-week wait)

Lord Fraser advocates the role of technology in homelessness prevention
The use of data to prevent homelessness was raised in the House of Lords by Lord Fraser of Corriegarth this week. During the debate on "the long-term commitment to increased provision of social housing to help to reduce housing costs, homelessness and housing benefit expenditure" Lord Fraser spoke on homelessness and housing mentioning both the 5 week wait, the payment direct to landlords not being automatic, and in reference to Policy in Practice's work, "the role of technology to help reduce homelessness."

Read Lord Fraser's speech here
Click the image below to listen back to Lord Fraser's speech
Croydon’s data-enabled Gateway service shortlisted for LGC 2019 transformation award
Congratulations to Croydon Council who have been shortlisted in no less than six categories for the LGC Awards 2019. This month we supported the Gateway team as they presented to judges of the Business Transformation category, recognising councils who have successfully and fundamentally transformed the way they work.

When we started working with Croydon Council two years ago their strategy was clear. Instead of reacting to changes taking place, they built a proactive model of delivery which gives a holistic early intervention and prevention approach that ends silos, and helps residents to become more resilient.

Read A visit to Croydon Council’s award winning Community Connect/Food Stop
Social Metrics are debated in the House of Lords
The Social Metrics Commission’s New Poverty Measure was debated in the House of Lords this month and, as a contributing Commissioner, we were in the gallery to support. As Baroness Stroud said, what gets measured, gets done, and it was great to see this point echoed by speakers from all sides of the Chamber. Good measures can drive good policy, when fuelled by good data and robust analysis.  Analysing the data gives insight (to understand the problem) and identification (to see who’s affected). It can inform effective interventions (which we can then test using the original measure). Our local authority clients have shown how well this data-led approach works.

The New Poverty Measure is a great opportunity to take data-driven policy to the next level. We aim to build these into the data analysis we do for clients using household level data set, and look forward to government adopting the measure as their own too.

Read our homelessness prevention work with Luton Council
Read our poverty reduction work with Croydon Council
Read why the New Poverty Measure is a better measure of poverty
Policy in Practice wins a pan-Wales data analytics tender to assess the impact of Universal Credit
Policy in Practice is very pleased to have been commissioned by the Welsh Government to undertake a detailed assessment of how Universal Credit is affecting families in Wales. This research will help the Welsh Government to make policy decisions that best support local authorities and their residents with Universal Credit.

The Welsh Government wants to understand the impact of Universal Credit on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, and wider impacts of Universal Credit on rent arrears.

Debt symposium: Lord Bird says we should use public sector data to tackle poverty
This month we attended a symposium on the Creditworthiness Assessment Bill convened by Fair By Design, hosted by Lord Bird MBE and sponsored by Justine Greening MP. The meeting explored how the rent datasets of the 14.8 million people in the UK rental sector may be used to better improve their access to appropriate and better value credit services. The Creditworthiness Assessment Bill passed through the House of Lords on 18 July 2018. It has received backing from all parties in the House of Commons, where it awaits its second reading.

Policy in Practice supports Lord Bird’s Bill and its potential to tackle financial vulnerability. As Deven said "Data is already used to detect fraud and chase arrears, so why not use it to help citizens?"

Read Lord Bird’s Creditworthiness Assessment Bill can help prevent vulnerability
Successful steering groups topped off by an evening with James Cleverly
This month we held two informative and productive User Group sessions, attended by people who use our LIFT Dashboard and Benefit and Budgeting Calculator.  As well as helping to shape our development roadmaps and quiz the Policy in Practice team, attendees were able to get new ideas to take back to the office, hear challenges others have resolved, ask peers for advice and provide feedback to us.

In the morning session, LIFT Dashboard users heard from Luton who spoke about how their multidisciplinary homelessness team uses the LIFT Dashboard to proactively engage with at-risk households. A key development objective shared by clients is to speed up the rate of data refreshes in order to get more timely insights, so this is something we're prioritising.

In the afternoon's Benefit and Budgeting Calculator session, attendees heard how Guinness and Curo had successfully embedded the use of the calculator. We also got very valuable feedback on the priorities for future development of the calculator, which included the development of new screens to show the next month’s UC award, and comparison of actual versus potential benefits awards.

At the end of our engaging day we retired to the local pub where we happened upon a Drink Tank with James Cleverly MP, which provided a stimulating end to a great day.

Find out about our next User Groups
Upcoming webinars
How Citizens Advice is helping Universal Credit claimants
Monday 4 February at 10:30

Do you work as an advisor at a Citizens Advice Bureau? In this webinar we look at what some LCAs are doing to support people as they move onto Universal Credit.  
Data analytics: Who's missing out on benefits in your area?
Wednesday 20 February at 10:30

DWP stats show over £10 billion in benefits is unclaimed. The new Benefits Take up screen in our LIFT Dashboard shows take up at a local level. Join us to take a look.
Council tax support: Models that Members can sign up to
Wednesday 20 March at 10:30

Join our clients to hear how they’re changing their council tax support schemes for Universal Credit. Learn how our comprehensive impact modelling provided the data that Members needed to agree amended schemes with confidence.

Can't make the dates? Register anyway to automatically get the recordings and slides.
On demand: January's webinar
Budgeting support: Best practice ways to help low income households
In our first webinar of 2019 Policy in Practice’s Donna Gallagher and Peter Carter talked to Marie Hardeman, Customer Accounts Manager at The Guinness Group, to hear what budgeting support they give to their tenants and how using Policy in Practice’s Benefit and Budgeting Calculator helps.

View slides, downloads and poll results here and Rightsnet link to our Benefit and Budgeting Calculator
Thank you to Universal Credit Advice and Rightsnet for supporting our work to frontline advisors.

Universal Credit Advice, run by Bill Irvine, provides knowledge and expertise on Universal Credit to help housing providers and councils to help their tenants. They've just launched a new website which you can check out here.

Rightsnet will be familiar to many advisers across the UK who use their services to stay up to date with the latest news and case law developments, get casework support, test their ideas and share their experience, and to network with other advice workers. Rightsnet is delivered by Lasa, the social welfare law and technology charity, and has been providing advice support since 1998.

We're very pleased to be able to integrate Lasa's advicelocal within our Benefit and Budgeting Calculator, giving our users relevant help and advice support that is local to them.

Join the Universal Credit Advice community here
Join the Rightsnet community here
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