Just a few weeks ago, Knowsley Council announced the launched of its £2.5m Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund, aiming to support residents who need it the most by ensuring they get the right support at the right time. The fund supports residents with access to essentials such as food, heating, housing and employment and debt advice.
We followed up with a resident to see how the fund has supported them and what impact it has had on their life.
The resident’s partner is self-employed and unfortunately, due to the COVID restrictions, their income significantly fluctuated and they received little Government help due to not meeting the Government’s eligibility criteria. In addition, their benefits were capped and with five children to support, the last year has been extremely challenging.
The resident sought the advice and support of the Council’s Money Advisor around housing support and managing their bills and are now in receipt of a Discretionary Housing Payment.
The resident said “I seriously thought ‘What am I going to do?’ We had little or no income coming in, our benefits were capped and we had bills to pay.
“The Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund has made a massive difference to our lives. It was a lifeline when we really needed it. With Government criteria being so strict in order to access business support schemes, we wasn’t eligible and we found ourselves in a position where we were unable to work due to lockdown rules.
“I spoke to Eric, the Money Advisor, who was amazing and so helpful. He instantly knew what support I could access and put the wheels in motion for me to receive a Discretionary Housing Payment from the Council to meet my housing costs.
“It felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
“I’d say to anyone who is in my position and feeling anxious and worried about their circumstances that help and support is available. You are not alone and the first step you need to take is admitting that you need help and ask for it. Help and support is available to stop issues escalating into bigger issues.”
Cllr Jayne Aston, Cabinet Member for Resources, added “We have listened to our communities and know the struggles and pressures they have been under over the last year. That is why we created the Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund, tailoring support to meet their needs, when they need it. I’m delighted to hear about the different this fund has made and the positive impact it has had on our residents.”
The Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund supports residents with:-
- Food and essentials will be distributed through the Borough’s community and voluntary organisations.
- Funding has been allocated to support Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s Winter Warmth and Safe Heating schemes, enabling a further 400 oil filled radiators to replace unsafe heating sources and provide effective single-room heating for vulnerable residents. As part of this scheme, older people and homeless people will receive a ‘warm and well pack’ on Christmas Day and Boxing Day and referred cases will also receive a ‘safe and well’ visit from a dedicated Prevention Team who will review or fit smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
- The Council’s Strategic Housing Service will also provide emergency boiler and central heating repairs for eligible residents (including those on benefits and low income).
- Residents who are moving from temporary accommodation into permanent accommodation will be offered a fuel voucher to support them through the winter period.
- The Council’s fuel bank offer to residents will be maintained which contributes £49 in the Winter and £30 in the Summer towards residents’ heating costs.
- Children’s Services will also be able to support vulnerable families and improve home conditions and provide support around utility or personal needs, helping them to maintain tenancies.
- More personal financial advice will be available through additional welfare benefit caseworker posts created in the community and voluntary sector.
- An additional Money Advisor role will be created within the Council offering specialist support to residents who apply to the Council for financial assistance.
- Specialist financial support for residents with mental health needs will be provided working with the community sector and health partners.
- Funding will also be allocated to support Council Tax debt targeted families around debt management.
- The Council’s Emergency Support Scheme will also continue to offer residents short-term assistance in relation to food, fuel and furniture.
- Fuel vouchers, the provision of warmth packs (which will include duvets, blankets and clothing), hygiene packs, Christmas food parcels and clothes vouchers will also be available from registered providers.
- People who are privately renting and have fallen behind with their rent will also be able to access support, ensuring they do not risk becoming homeless.
- Support will also be provided to residents in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit through the Discretionary Housing Payment Scheme.
- Residents who have been long-term unemployed but supported into employment will receive support through the Knowsley Works team with the offer of a ‘bridging payment’ until they receive their first wage.
Residents are referred to the Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund through partner agencies as well as the Council’s own Benefits service. Organisations across the Borough are currently working with vulnerable families, so know where and what support is needed within our communities. You can find useful information around Financial advice and support, Benefits and Emergency Support Scheme.
The fund is available until 31 March 2022.