Read how we're supporting clients through the crisis
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A word from our founder
This is our first newsletter since the Coronavirus pandemic changed our lives. Many of us have faced unprecedented strain, professionally and personally, since it began. I'm proud of Policy in Practice's response; answering over 2,500 questions from worried members of the public, being the first to release analysis in response to the Chancellor's emergency budget measures, keeping our benefit calculator up to date as legislation and guidance changed rapidly, and adapting our analytics to help councils identify those hardest hit.

However, this is nothing compared to the efforts of the many thousands of people delivering food parcels to shielded individuals, developing new services from scratch, and overcoming barriers to achieve in days what would otherwise take months. Despite the ongoing uncertainties we all face, it's worthwhile taking a moment to reflect on what was achieved in such a short space of time, and how what were previously tough challenges were tackled and overcome when the need arose.

In the last four months, we've shown we can deliver monthly insights into living standards; identified households struggling with debt and missing out on support, forecast almost exactly the numbers of people impacted by a national policy change, and supported tens of thousands of people daily to navigate the benefit system to get support. There are more challenges ahead, not least growing inequality as the pandemic hits lower-income households hardest, and how councils navigate financial uncertainty. Your data can show clearly who is hardest hit, and how important your services have been in mitigating the worst effects of the crisis.

I hope we all continue to push the boundaries to deliver more effective services.

Deven Ghelani, Founder and Director of Policy in Practice
Councils get real-time updates from Innovate UK to boost COVID-19 recovery

For the first time, councils have access to real-time monthly updates on living standards thanks to new Innovate UK funding secured by Policy in Practice and backed to continue into 2021 by Trust for London.

New funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, will deliver faster insights to councils by automating the secure transfer of administrative data to the council’s Low Income Family Tracker (LIFT) platform, developed by Policy in Practice. The project will use benefits administration data to deliver monthly updates to councils, reducing the time to process data from up to six weeks to under six days. The new support for councils was announced in The MJ recently.

The more timely your data, the more powerful it is. These insights will support councils with their economic and social recovery plans and help them to be more responsive to local needs.

To find out how councils can benefit from Innovate UK funding contact Policy in Practice on 0330 088 9242 or  

Read how councils can benefit from new Innovate UK funding
Listen to how LIFT supports Luton Council with their recovery

Benefit and Budgeting Calculator sees record-breaking usage as COVID-19 affects incomes

Our clients are working on the frontline of the ongoing crisis, sometimes as the last line of support for those who have no-one left to turn to. From everyone at Policy in Practice, we want to say thank you for the essential services and support you are providing.

In the early days we saw demand for our Benefit and Budgeting Calculator double overnight, and then double again, as people looked for information about how Coronavirus is affecting their income. We answered over 2,500 queries from people who had questions about their finances, and have improved the calculator interface so the advice on how to maximise incomes is more obvious.

We heard how Cheltenham Borough Homes, London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Citizens Advice Wirral have responded to the crisis in our webinars. We also presented our COVID-19 policy analysis and explained complex policy changes such as surplus earnings rules in depth.

As we face an uncertain future together we are proud to play our part. We have partnered with Adecco Working Ventures to support the new Commercial Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services (CAEHRS) framework and we continue to adapt and enhance our Benefit and Budgeting Calculator so that it remains the best support tool available for frontline advisors to support the newly financially vulnerable.

View all on-demand webinars

Newcastle CC and LB Barking and Dagenham’s debt prevention work delivers big returns on investment

In a Cabinet Office backed project supported by Policy in Practice, Newcastle City Council and the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham showed how early identification and holistic support can deliver a return on investment 30 times over.

All councils across the UK are grappling with the same issue. More residents are financially vulnerable, falling into arrears and needing help because of the pandemic, whilst, at the same time, councils still need to maximise collections.

The groundbreaking work of the ReImagine Debt project offers a proven approach to preventing debt that can be scaled across government.

Read about two council’s proven approach to preventing debt

Report for the Welsh Government on the impact of Universal Credit on people living in Wales published

Our report, Understanding the Impact of Universal Credit on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and Rent Arrears in Wales, has been published by the Welsh Government. The report was the culmination of eighteen months of working closely with all 22 Welsh local authorities alongside the Welsh Government.

The report focuses on the impact of Universal Credit on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, council tax reduction awards, council tax arrears and rent arrears in Wales. It also considers the experience of Universal Credit claimants and stakeholders.

Conclusions show that Universal Credit is a significant change in welfare support for low-income households. The report provides evidence that the move to Universal Credit is having an impact on the financial resilience of households and the debt levels of low-income residents in Wales.

Download report
Lawrlwuthwch adroddiad

The impact of COVID-19 on low income households

Policy in Practice was commissioned by the Greater London Authority to analyse the interaction between the COVID-19 increase in benefits introduced in April 2020, and the benefit cap. Our findings, featured in The Observer, show that benefit capped households are set to double in the capital. This finding has since been proven across the country with the government’s release of the latest benefit cap statistics.

Read The impact of the COVID-19 Hardship Fund on low-income Londoners
Contact us to learn who is impacted by the Benefit Cap in your local authority

COVID-19 hardship fund allocations were given to councils to help people struggling to pay council tax. We found that a council's remaining allocation depended upon the generosity of their council tax support scheme; councils with more generous schemes had more of the hardship fund left over to support others. We went onto model this for council across the UK, and the analysis was shared in the Municipal Journal.

Read The interaction of COVID-19 measures and the Benefit Cap on low-income Londoners
View Policy in Practice’s Hardship Fund Allocation table

We analysed over 20 million data records pooled by councils across London. Our latest analysis found that working-age low-income Londoners had become more financially vulnerable leading up to the crisis, and the decline in living standards meant many were not prepared for the financial impact of COVID-19. While emergency measures helped, many were still struggling. Lone parents out of work were particularly badly hit, with nearly a fifth struggling to make ends meet.

Explore the Living Standards Index for London
Universal Credit responded well to COVID-19 but problems remain

Universal Credit has responded to the crisis better than the legacy system would have ever been able to. But with nearly 10 million furloughed jobs supported via the Job Retention Scheme and 3 million claims made to the Self Employed Income Support Scheme, challenges still remain, as our policy analysis has shown.

The increase in non-traditional working patterns is an opportunity for those with hidden barriers to work to engage with the labour market. But flexible working can also come with greater insecurity and does not easily fit with benefit systems designed around full time regular work. This lack of fit between work and benefits means households risk having to choose to engage with only one of these. Our evidence gives examples of some of the issues arising between changing work patterns and the benefit system, and suggests solutions.

Read submission The implications for DWP of changes in the world of work

Policy in Practice responded to a survey by the Work and Pensions Committee about DWPs response to the Coronavirus pandemic. We made three main recommendations to make the benefit system more supportive to claimants, and better able to support the country through this pandemic. We call for the savings limit in Universal Credit to be suspended for the next twelve months, the two-child benefit limit and the benefit cap to be suspended (or at least increased to £2,500 per month) for the duration of the pandemic, and the increased generosity of the welfare system to be maintained after April 2021.

Read submission How DWP has responded to the Coronavirus pandemic

We submitted evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee into the economics of Universal Credit. Our analysis considered how well Universal Credit met its original objectives, and whether these are still the right ones; the economic impact and austerity; which claimants have benefited most from the Universal Credit reforms and which have lost out; how the world of work has changed since the introduction of Universal Credit and whether Universal Credit’s design adequately reflect the reality of low-paid work and how Universal Credit can better meet the lived experience of claimants.

Read submission The Economics of Universal Credit

Watch Dr Ben Fell give evidence on Universal Credit and the wait for first payment

How viable is your council tax support scheme?
Wednesday 9 September at 10:30 to 11:30

As COVID-19 continues to hit the financial resilience of many families councils are looking ahead to what this means for collection rates, and whether their council tax support schemes can cope with increased demand.

Join this webinar to hear:

  • New analysis for the Welsh Government on the impact of Universal Credit on rent and council tax arrears
  • The likely impact of COVID-19 on caseloads and the viability of your council tax support schemes
  • Mitigating measures you could take, and the impact for national and local policymaking

Register here
Can't make the date? Register anyway to get the slides and recording

How to predict the demand for your customer-facing services in April 2021
Wednesday 7 October at 10:30 to 11:30

COVID-19 has created residents who are newly financially vulnerable and who will be looking to you for help in the near future. But who are these people, and what action can you take now to stop them falling into crisis and to understand how your support services will need to adapt?

Join this webinar to learn:

  • What the best and worst case scenarios look like for councils in 2021
  • How flexible modelling of the future can help you understand the impacts on your caseload
  • What the likely impact will be on employment, arrears, and homelessness, and what that means for you

Register here
Can't make the date? Register anyway to get the slides and recording

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