“Praise for the work of our Income and Benefits team” – Anthony Hunt, Torfaen Board Leader

At Christmas and New Years, when many of us were spending time with our families, the efforts of our public service employees are particularly inspiring.

It was a pleasure to join the team at the Cwmbran Stadium Mass Vaccination Center as a volunteer, to work alongside them and to see the fantastic job they do to help people stay safe.

Walk-in clinics continue to run, so go get your shot if you haven’t yet, to help protect yourself and those around you, and to help ease the pressure on our. NHS.

NHS workers have rightly been cited as heroes during the pandemic, but so many others deserve the label as well. Yet the work they do to help others often goes unnoticed, as much of the work done by board staff is confidential or behind the scenes.

Take the work of our Revenue and Profits team in Torfaen.

Over Christmas, they worked on the fuel voucher program to provide cash to people who need it to pay growing bills, developing the latest grant program for local businesses affected by the pandemic, and dealing with a record number of self-isolation payments. They made discretionary housing payments to local families who were going through a difficult time to help them stay in their homes, keeping people’s lives from being disrupted and saving public money in the long run.

They have worked with partners, both within the board such as our Financial Inclusion, Housing, Communities for Work and Business Support teams, and with outside partners who provide invaluable assistance, such as housing associations, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Age Connects Torfaen and many more.

Take Jane, a local parent who works but struggles to pay the bills after a new arrival and has to take unpaid time off during late pregnancy. With their help, she was able to pay off her mortgage arrears.

Or Bridgit, who escaped domestic violence and needed their guidance and support to cope with her financial situation.

Or John, a caregiver who has lost his job and control of his finances. Thanks to their support, he is now back to work and paying off his rent arrears.

I changed the names above, but these are not hypothetical situations. All of these cases could have resulted in a personal crisis and homelessness. Instead, people have the chance to rebuild their lives, with the support of dedicated public servants and other members of our communities.

The late and great Desmond Tutu spoke of the need to go upstream and find out why people fall into the river, rather than just pulling them out. We need to do more as a public service. Together, this is a challenge that we can meet.

If you need to apply for a discretionary payment for housing or find out more about how to apply for other financial aid, including free school meals and a reduction in municipal taxes, you can visit the Torfaen website. If you want help finding or changing jobs, our Employability and Communities for Work teams can help. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact our Benefits team at [email protected] or by phone on 01495 766430.

Maria D. Ervin