The Welfare Benefits Unit was established in 1968 by the York branch of the Child Poverty Action Group. They wished to promote greater awareness and take-up of benefits and initially set up a market stall run by volunteers. In the late 1970s they secured funding and moved to a city centre office, employing paid workers for the first time. At this time they were known as York People’s Rights (YPU) and the workers had to be have been recently unemployed (and thereby offered expertise based on their own experience).
In the 1980s YPU expanded its work to provide second-tier advice and training to advisers and became a resource centre for social workers. With funding from North Yorkshire County Council the service became North Yorkshire People’s Rights and became more involved in benefit take-up campaigns.
With further funding from North Yorkshire County Council the size of the organisation grew and became the Welfare Benefits Unit. In 1985 the service stopped providing advice to members of the public and became solely a second-tier advice and consultancy agency. The Welfare Benefits Unit began producing publications for members of the public in 1990. Funding continued from North Yorkshire County Council and from City of York Council when it became a unitary authority in 1996. Revenue from training and publications also supports the service.
The Welfare Benefits Unit has now registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation and continues to offer quality second tier advice to advisers in North Yorkshire and York. The training programme attracts attendees from other parts of the country and the Advisers Guide sells nationally.