Glasgow & West Scotland

Beggars to get benefits help on Glasgow streets

homeless man in glasgow
Image caption The new digital inclusion officer will help homeless people to get the support they need

People begging in Glasgow city centre are to receive help to navigate the benefits system and get the support they need.

Glasgow City Council confirmed that a new roving digital inclusion officer will work on the streets alongside the Simon Community's street team.

People will be supported to ensure they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to.

They will also be assisted to apply for forms of identification.

This will enable them to open bank accounts and to apply for benefits.

In July the council was criticised for repeatedly failed to offer temporary accommodation to those asking for help.

But in response it said there was "significant pressure" on its supply of homeless accommodation.

Official figures recently showed the number of applications for homelessness status in Scotland had gone up for the first time in nine years.

The full-time post is being created as part of a City Centre Begging Strategy and will be jointly funded by the council and the Simon Community.

Vital help

It comes ahead of the introduction of Universal Credit in Glasgow, a UK government benefit which must be applied for online and paid into a bank or Post Office account.

Councillor Allan Casey, chairman of Glasgow's City Centre Begging Strategy Group, said: "The benefits system can be complicated and confusing - especially if you have a chaotic lifestyle and no access to technology or broadband.

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"The application process can be daunting, but this new digital inclusion post will take financial and digital support directly to the most vulnerable to help ensure no-one is missing out on the benefits they are entitled to.

"It will build on the established relationship the Simon Community's street team already has with people begging in the city centre and is a great example of how partnership working can get to the heart of complex social problems."

The new officer will be equipped with a tablet so they can help people as soon as they encounter them.

Robin Wallace, assistant director of Simon Community Scotland, said the new service would provide vital support.

'Margins of society'

He said: "This type of assistance is exceptionally important for people living on the margins of society.

"It will ensure people who need help the most, receive it.

"Our experience within the street team recognises that people can spend a large amount of time engaged in street begging, and less time engaging in support and connecting with staff and services, therefore it is imperative that we take this service to them."

Recruitment for the new post is already under way and it is hoped the successful applicant will be in place soon.

The officer will also work out of the new multi-agency city centre hub for homeless people which is due to open in early 2019.

Open seven days a week, it will allow people to access their online DWP accounts via a computer at the hub and receive assistance from staff.

The hub may also be used as a correspondence address for people if necessary.

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