‘National heroes' who protect residents from the worst effects of poverty have come together in Salford.
100 welfare rights advisers from across the country were welcomed by City Mayor Paul Dennett at the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers (NAWRA) conference on Friday 1 March.
NAWRA is a membership based organisation for social welfare advice providers across the UK. Its aims are to challenge, influence and improve welfare rights policy and legislation; and to be a national voice for welfare rights advisers.
In the past year alone, Salford City Council's own team of welfare rights advisers have helped thousands of local people to secure an £5 million of social security benefits they are entitled to.
The NAWRA conference is attended by a strong national network of specialist advisers who come together to share expert knowledge and experience and to influence government policy,
Keynote speaker, Professor Lisa Scullion from the University of Salford, who leads the Salford Anti-Poverty Taskforce with Salford City Council, discussed learning lessons from the lived experiences of people across the UK who are facing difficulties navigating the contemporary benefits system.
And Catherine Connors, Head of Salford's Debt and Advice Service, addressed the network on the vital role of advice services in safeguarding vulnerable adults and children.
Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett said: "These welfare rights advisers are national heroes who are doing all they can to protect people from the worst effects of poverty. We know that Universal Credit is making life harder for many of our residents so this work is vital.
"Our Welfare Rights advisers work tirelessly alongside specialist Debt Advisers to provide people with free, independent advice and representation to access their basic rights to social security and challenge unfair Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decisions. They support people who are facing the worry of bailiffs or eviction from their homes.
"Spending on welfare benefits for the UK's poorest families will have shrunk by nearly a quarter after a decade of austerity. It is important that we do all we can to help people through these difficult times.
“Salford residents can get free confidential and independent advice on benefits or debt problems. See https://www.salford.gov.uk/welfarerights for further details.”
Professor Lisa Scullion, from the University of Salford said: “It is important to share lessons learned in the academic world with those who are on the front line – dealing with people in poverty each day.
“Conditionality shapes what people have access to. Many people lead complex lives and slight changes in circumstances can have a massive impact on their lives. Vital support is required and this is exactly why the work of the National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers is so important.”
A resident who Salford Welfare Rights and Debt Advice Service supported during a very stressful time last year said;
"It has helped me financially and mental health wise without these services I would be very distressed and worse off. I could not have done all the paperwork and have the confidence to pursue matters. I would have given up. I would like to thank the service for all their help over the years. Without them I don't think I would have survived."