A South Tyneside Council boss has pledged that a revamp of welfare support services in the borough will help provide a better service.
The council’s existing Welfare Rights Team and South Tyneside Homes’ Welfare Reform Team have been merged with the aim to provide an improved, streamlined and proactive service.
An enhanced welfare serviceCoun Ed Malcolm
From Monday August 3, residents will be directed to call 0300 123 6633 – South Tyneside Homes’ main contact centre number – to access welfare advice and support.
The number will serve as a first port of contact for residents to access the Welfare Support Team and will be charged at the same rate as an 0191 number.
The newly formed team, to be centrally based at Strathmore in Jarrow, is available to all residents in the borough, including social renters, private renters and home owners.
Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead cabinet member for resources and innovation, said: “Despite funding being removed for local welfare support across the country, South Tyneside Council recognises the need to make sure that vulnerable people affected by the Government’s welfare reforms still have access to all the support they need.”
Responding to concerns raised at the council’s People Select Committee last week that calls to the contact number could cost more and leave people waiting longer on the line, at a time when they were already feeling stressed, Coun Malcolm added: “The number we are promoting for people to access the service is irrelevant. They will not only get to speak to a person, but using the South Tyneside Homes primary contact number ensures that there will always be staff available to take a call.
“We want to reiterate that people will receive the same welfare support services available as before.
“However, the way they are delivered will be better and more streamlined, with a central point of contact for all residents of the borough.
“Residents will receive an enhanced welfare support service at no extra cost in terms of how they contact us.”