Welfare team to be increased to help more people with changes

(sitting left to right) Danielle Martin (course cordinator) Leighann Bresnen and Kathleen Wotton (course members) and Malcolm Fallow (chief executive) with welfare champion course members looking on.
(sitting left to right) Danielle Martin (course cordinator) Leighann Bresnen and Kathleen Wotton (course members) and Malcolm Fallow (chief executive) with welfare champion course members looking on.

A SUCCESSFUL community project that supports people affected by benefit cutbacks is set to almost treble its capacity with the recruitment of 20 new volunteers.

The Welfare Champions project is run by East Durham Trust and already has a fully trained team of 12 champions who have signposted and advised more than 500 local people experiencing difficulties or confusion due to changes in the welfare system.

More than 100 emergency food parcels have also been distributed via the welfare champions though the trust’s FEED project.

The welfare champions project recognises that many people will often turn to people they know in the local community rather than contact official support services and they are easily accessible at various community locations.

Recent examples of situations where welfare champions have provided support have included, preventing a potential financial crisis by supporting a single parent who was set to have their Employment Support Allowance sanctioned to provide legitimate evidence that they had met with benefit criteria. Another example was signposting and helping a person to access the welfare rights service to support with a benefit appeal.

Chief executive Malcolm Fallow said: “The fact that there is a need for a second phase of the Welfare Champions project is a ringing endorsement of the value of the project to date - it also clearly indicates that there are many people out there who are finding themselves in crisis situations.”

The project, which is supported by East Durham Area Action Partnership, doesn’t replicate that of the already well established such as the Citizens Advice Bureau service. But instead will complement this by providing signposting information to the right agencies for assisting with specific issues and cases. To find out more information contact East Durham Trust on (0191) 5693511, email: info@eastdurhamtrust.org.uk or visit: www.eastdurhamtrust.org.uk