As Universal Credit claimant numbers rocket, North East social enterprise Society Matters cic has moved its crucial ‘Getting to Grips with Universal Credit’ training courses online as its country-wide classroom-based courses dried up through lockdown. 

The social enterprise launched its specialist social welfare courses last year to respond to the confusion surrounding Universal Credit and other benefits. They had a full order book as the pandemic hit, but due to social distancing rules the courses had to be cancelled. Several of their customers, however, didn’t want to miss out, wanting to help their staff and customers to cope with living on Universal Credit. So, the Society Matters team fast-tracked their plans to move the training online and are now delivering it in a virtual classroom format.

Northumbrian Water pilot online delivery approach

Northumbrian Water were quick to re-book the staff training that had been cancelled to comply with social distancing.  Tracey Greener, the utility giant’s Workforce Development Manager explained:

“Our customer teams are continuing to develop their knowledge and skills whilst working from home. By partnering with Society Matters we have piloted an online training package to help our advisors understand more about Universal Credit. The learning from the course will ensure our teams have a thorough understanding of the benefit system and the challenges our customers face.”

Society Matters knows that their training is needed more now than ever to help  both corporates and charities to cope with the fallout of over a million people having to move onto the controversial benefit since the start of the Covid19 pandemic.

Lee Booth, Trading Manager of Society Matters who delivers the course alongside welfare benefits specialists trained by parent charity Citizens Advice Gateshead, said:

“When our whole team moved to homeworking last month, we immediately set about getting the course into a format that could be delivered online. It was too important to shelve just because social distancing got in the way. We need corporates and charities to really understand how Universal Credit works. By understanding it they can help their employees and their customers to properly benefit from it, and not put them at a disadvantage through their own policies without realising it.”

National delivery continues through the pandemic

The social enterprise has already trained people across the North and South West including national homeless charity Centrepoint, Northumbrian Water, Home Group, LSL Property Services, Gateshead Housing Company, Citizens Advice and Fedcap. The courses can be delivered in closed or open sessions in virtual classrooms, and within the next two months they plan to use the virtual classroom to deliver training in mental health awareness, employment law and discrimination, as well as all aspects of welfare benefits.

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