July 9th, 2021



A pilot project to help residents in financial difficulties has been launched by Adur & Worthing Councils amid fears for rising poverty levels post-pandemic.

Council staff have contacted scores of people in the most vulnerable households to offer help and advice about avoiding falling further into debt. They found that more than half of those spoken to in Adur and almost half in Worthing were potentially eligible for benefits they were not claiming and/or could access money mentoring/employment coaching etc.
The project comes as calculations made for the Councils draw on evidence that up to 20 per cent of workers currently furloughed could lose their jobs when the scheme comes to an end.

In this instance the Council Tax Support caseload could rise by 29 per cent in Adur and 32 per cent in Worthing. The cost of paying additional benefits would rise by £174,000 per month in Adur and £249,000 Worthing placing huge burdens on finances.

Data work identified more than 11,500 residents already either in Council Tax or rent arrears across both borough and district.

A small number were contacted by specially trained staff  to offer support and advice with some not aware they could claim other benefits. In addition a host of other advice and referrals to wellbeing and mental health services, money advice experts and befriending services were made.

A report to the Councils’ Joint Strategic Committee next week (July 13) details some of the examples of those the pilot scheme helped including a recently widowed woman who had got into rent arrears.

The report says, ‘Mrs D told us that without that support, she would have been overwhelmed, would not have returned the form, and could have got into further debt and experienced increased anxiety.’

The report says the pilot scheme will continue. More resource and digital solutions to help residents avoid getting further into trouble could be invested in if the pilot scheme has continued success.

Adur District Council’s Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Kevin Boram, said, ‘‘Our research clearly shows that the pandemic will push more people into poverty and a feeling of helplessness.  This scheme will deliver early intervention with support and some cases finance, in order to reduce the impact of financial difficulties to mitigate against a potentially bad situation getting worse.’

Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Sean McDonald, said, ‘This is an innovative pilot project which uses the latest data to contact those who might be in danger of drifting further into trouble. Primarily of course it can help the resident because getting into debt is an incredibly distressing experience but it also makes economic sense to intervene. Revenues we collect are spent providing vital services to our community so this is something of a virtuous circle.’

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