VOLUNTARY organisations across Hampshire have been learning about Winchester City Council’s initiatives to improve welfare.

At a meeting at Winchester Science Centre, members gathered to hear about work being done to help benefit-claimants through Welfare Reform and Universal Credit.

Winchester Hospital Radio, the Food Bank, Citizens Advice Bureau and The Carroll Centre were just some of the organisations which attended.

The city council leader, Rob Humby, spoke of the council’s commitment to economic wellbeing for all and said jobseekers would be helped wherever possible.

“Ensuring that all our residents have a decent home and a good quality of life is a corporate priority,” he said. “We are only too aware of the need that is out there, because the council is landlord to 5,000 homes across the district. I think that delegates at the meeting were surprised by the range and quantity of initiatives to provide support those who most need it.”

The Government has set out clear points of action in the run up to the Universal Credit scheme, which is due to made available country-wide by 2017. These include general advice and information; assisted access for claims; additional support for those with disabilities; and financial inclusion.

Cllr Mike Southgate, the council’s newly appointed portfolio holder for communities and transport, will be overseeing the council’s grants programmes. He said: “I’m very glad to have been here. This has been an eye-opening event, and I’ve been able to hear about all kinds of interesting work being done by voluntary organisations. I am looking forward to working closely with them.

“On my first day this was a great opportunity to meet people from the voluntary sector who are often in the front-line when it comes to providing support. I was also pleased to participate in the workshops which identified many of the implementation challenges we face with Universal Credit.”