Warning of advocacy role under threat

    Joint teams of government pension services and local authority
    social services staff will undermine the advocacy role of social
    workers and other council employees, a welfare rights specialist
    has warned.

    Neil Bateman told delegates that having joint teams carrying out
    financial assessments for social care services and helping people
    to claim pension credit and other benefits was “fundamentally wrong
    and misconceived”.

    He said the joint teams had already caused some local authorities
    to reduce their welfare rights work, adding that Department for
    Work and Pensions staff lacked the skills to do this work.

    “As we get into a partnership arrangement with the DWP, it’s going
    to be that much harder to be advocates,” he said.

    “It weakens the local authority as advocates for its community on
    benefits issues and that’s a long-standing and important part of
    local democracy.”

    The government is aiming to roll out the joint teams across England
    and Wales over the next two years.

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