Pioneering Councils' project helps scores rise out of poverty trap

Released: Monday, 10 January 2022

More than 150 residents in Adur and Worthing have been offered help under a pioneering scheme using intervention to target those struggling financially in our communities.

Help with mental health has been offered as well as advice on finances to those identified as 'not coping' having been identified on a comprehensive database compiled using the latest computer technology.

In some instances residents have benefitted by obtaining benefits worth hundreds of pounds for which they had not realised they qualified. In some cases residents' well being improved after being referred to mental health services.

A project called Proactive has been established within Adur & Worthing Councils staffed by officers from across disciplines to look at people struggling on low incomes, particularly as the pandemic increased hardship.

Using information on those claiming benefits administered by Councils, including housing benefit and council tax support, and applying a score to each, officers were able to place residents into two categories. These were 'coping' and 'not coping' the latter being further divided into three sub-categories: 'struggling', 'at risk' and 'in crisis'.

According to a report to go before the Councils’ Joint Strategic Committee (JSC) next week the Proactive team decided the trial would contact a number of people in different categories including private accomodation renters in arrears, carers categorised as 'at risk' and 'struggling' single parents.

“The team's aims are simple: to increase household income and/or to reduce household debt for those that we work with,” says the report.

It details one case, a Mr G, who was contacted after falling into rental arrears in a damp flat and who had no income for three months. The resident had not realised he qualified for a state pension which he is now receiving along with an initial food parcel and electricity and gas vouchers. The damp in his flat has also been treated.

Adur District Council's Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Kevin Boram, said:

“These early results from the Proactive team are fantastic and show that we have helped this targeted group of residents improve their financial wellbeing by hundreds of pounds simply by explaining their entitlements and directing them to further help.

“Obviously expansion of this very comprehensive scheme will depend on finances but if we can show that there is a benefit to keeping people from falling further into debt there is a case to be made. It is also clear that this initiative can also have a huge positive impact on our residents' health, both physical and mental.”

Worthing Borough Council's Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Sean McDonald, said:

“I am heartened by these early results which are the result of fantastic teamwork across the Councils and with partners. Just hearing the stories of how a targeted phone call with follow-up help can make all the difference is evidence enough for me that we should continue this trial.”

Although the report is at pains to point out the results of the trial can be influenced by outside influences such as finding work the figures show the number of residents moving from not coping to coping increased from 66 to 98, while those at risk dropped from 57 to eight. In many cases residents were around £100 a month better off after receiving benefit advice.

The report says the trial project will continue, focusing on ensuring as many identified residents as possible do not shift from 'coping' to 'not coping'. The Councils had identified the project as a priority but future resources for the work-intensive project remained a concern.

PR22-003 - More than 150 local residents have been offered help under the scheme

(PR22-003)

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Page last updated: 25 November 2022

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