The Knowsley Better Together Board were updated (on 15 March) on the support being provided to residents who are facing hardship, exacerbated by the pandemic and how this aligns to the Knowsley 2030 Strategy.
Data from Citizens Advice Knowsley shows that in 2021/22:-
- 62% of debt clients have a disability or long-term health condition
- 50%+ of debt clients report having mental health issues or multiple issues including mental health
- 71% of those who approach for debt advice solely are in rented accommodation. Of this, 66% are social housing tenants.
The removal of the Universal Credit uplift affected 19,200 residents. When taken with the cost-of-living rise, hardship is likely to be felt across all communities.
The pandemic has also created additional challenges and pressures – many residents were faced with job loss or being furloughed and Knowsley Better Together was instrumental in supporting residents when they needed our support the most. Partners came together to:-
- Manage Government grants – raising awareness of what grants were available, who was eligible and how to apply
- Expand fuel support
- Grow community food partnerships
- Offer direct support with energy and water bills
- Allocate grants to community partners to identify, engage and deliver support
- Established the £2.5m Better Together Hardship Fund in April 2021, supporting vulnerable residents with essentials such as food and heating
- Increased capacity for debt and welfare benefit advice delivered directly to residents through Citizens Advice Knowsley and Prescot Advice
- Livv Housing Group has provided tailored advice and support with a range of issues from benefit advice, debt, help with food costs, fuel as well as offering mental health outreach, utility switching (which includes energy as well as insurance and mobile phone tariffs)
- ForHousing has offered outreach support as well as food and fuel support
This support will continue post-pandemic with partners ensuring that their staff can effectively identify residents needing support and signposting residents to appropriate support.
Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council and Chair of the Knowsley Better Together board, said: “Our residents were already facing a number of challenges, even before the pandemic, and these challenges, for many, spiralled out of control over the last two years. It’s really important that our residents know that help and support is available.
“Knowsley Better Together is instrumental in supporting our communities. Agencies and communities can come together to share ideas, expertise and resources for the benefit of Knowsley and its communities. That is exactly what happened throughout the pandemic so that residents were fully supported.
“We are continually building on the support we offer which I know for many residents is a lifeline. We know that more can be achieved by working together and ultimately we are all working to the same goal – for our residents to feel supported, self-sufficient and empowered.”
The Knowsley Better Together Board consists of representatives from Knowsley Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Knowsley Chamber of Commerce (representing the business sector), Knowsley Children and Families Board, Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, Knowsley Clinical Commission Group, Livv Housing Group (representing the housing sector), Knowsley Youth Parliament, Knowsley Place Board, One Knowsley (representing Community, Voluntary and Faith sector), Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service.