Father's mother's and baby's hand

Hardship fund hard at work

CASH from a special fund set up by Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson is making sure that children from deprived backgrounds get a decent meal during the school holidays.

And with the government’s roll out of Universal Credit due for September, the fear is more families and individuals will need to turn to the cash-strapped local authority for help.

These are just some of the findings of a Liverpool City Council Cabinet report into the work of The Mayoral Hardship Fund.

In its first year of operation, the fund has paid out nearly £300,000 to support low income families. The fund was created by Mayor Anderson as a lifeline to those who are struggling to make ends meet.

The £2m pot provides financial support with ‘basic need’ items including food, fuel and clothing. It can also help to provide money for access to service such as financial advice, budgeting and legal advice.

A report to the City Council’s Cabinet today (July 6) says it was created in anticipation of the potential effects of the government’s Welfare Reform Programme, falling incomes and the increasing cost of living.

The hardship fund is one of range of crisis help provided by the city council, which also includes the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme and Discretionary Housing Payments.

The report says: “The increasing strain on many households are clear from growing reliance upon crisis support whether this be from the council’s Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme, foodbanks across the city or other sources in the community. Citizens may struggle to meet everyday living costs, particularly when faced with an unexpected bill or costs for an emergency.”

Anyone can apply for support from the Mayoral Hardship Fund and all applications are judged against a strict set of criteria. The money is provided for families and individuals but also for specific initiatives aimed at reducing hardship in specific city council wards.

Over the last year 23 awards were granted to support ‘food costs’. In one ward, funding was provided to cover transport costs to allow people to visit a foodbank. In another it provided food hampers for people who would struggle over Christmas.

In total £70,000 was spent on ensuring children from deprived backgrounds get a nutritious meal during the school holidays.

Funding has also been used to provide computers at a Liverpool community centre to allow residents to do job searches and to help children with their homework.

The progress report into the Mayoral Hardship Fund comes with a stark warning: when government welfare reforms like Universal Credit, begin to bite, more people will come to rely on support from the council.

Earlier this year the council published its assessment of the potential negative effects of welfare reforms in the city.

It concluded that people with long-term illnesses, families with children, women, older social housing tenants and young people would all be hit hard.

Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said: “This year the council invested more than £23m in supporting people in our city who are struggling to make ends meet. Yet by 2020 our funding from the government will have fallen by and eye-watering £444m. Now we are bracing ourselves for the introduction of welfare reforms that appear to punish the very people they were supposed to protect.

“Our analysis shows that measures such as the bedroom tax have hit disabled people in our communities. The reduced benefit cap unfairly targets people who are either unable or not required to look for work, whilst universal credit actually leaves hard working families on low incomes with less.

“The inference is clear – the more that is taken away from people by national government, the more they will need support from other sources paid for by local taxpayers. We are committed to doing all we can to help but against a backdrop of ever dwindling resources, something will have to give.”

“We will continue to raise these issues with the government in the hope they will accept some of the unintended consequences of these reforms and take the time to re-consider introducing them.”

The council’s cabinet accepted the update report on The Mayoral Hardship Fund.

For more information, visit Liverpool City Council’s website: www.liverpool.gov.uk and search for Mayoral Hardship Fund. You can also call 0800 456 1523 to find out more and make a claim.

Liverpool Waterfront