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Making welfare work locally: Liverpool City Council

30 October 2014

Liverpool Direct Benefits Service on behalf of Liverpool City Council - Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme

“The Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme provides a vital lifeline to vulnerable people and those in our community facing an unforeseen crisis. The help it gives with basic living costs and the essentials of setting up home can make a huge difference. We have worked hard to ensure that the service is quick, flexible to meet a range of needs and helps customers access a range of other support where needed.”

Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson

Summary of scheme

  • Applications made by phone to Liverpool Direct contact centre via a freephone number or landline or online through approved partner organisations. Plans to open online applications to the public in December 2014.
  • Available to anyone over 16 and resident in or moving in to Liverpool.
  • Home Needs awards - mainly for furniture, white goods and household items and are usually provided by Liverpool Furniture Resource Centre
  • Urgent Needs awards – mainly for food, fuel or clothing. Vouchers normally sent by email and SMS to be exchanged for cash at PayPoint outlets.
  • Scheme integrated into benefits service allowing holistic service including reviewing local authority benefit entitlements, accessing discretionary housing payments (DHPs) and specialist benefits advice and advocacy.

Key facts and figures

Year one (2013/14)

  • 16,218 applications and 8,992 awards made – an average 66 per cent approval rate across the year.
  • 6,758 Urgent Needs awards – 99 per cent approved within two day target.
  • 2,234 Home Needs awards – 99 per cent approved within 10 day target.
  • 40.2 per cent of budget over 2013-14 was spent on claimant awards but spending increased towards the end of the year. Some underspend was used to support benefits maximisation services, implementing the freephone number and additional funding for discretionary housing payments.

Year two (2014/15) to date

  • 5,300 awards had been made including around 1,900 home needs awards and 3,900 urgent needs awards

Why Liverpool’s work stood out

The scheme was designed to be flexible and appropriate changes were made during the year as lessons were learned. When it was clear that awards were low and the budget would be underspent, they both increased targeted promotion and used underspent money to provide related support.

Key features

  • Learning lessons and making improvements. Following feedback, they made the scheme more flexible to help those in need including people with benefit sanctions and moving into work and moving houses. They introduced a freephone number, prioritised calls from people calling from phone boxes and introduced an online claim form for approved partners.
  • Targeted awareness raising and take-up work. After low initial spend, they designed a communication plan that provided public information on the website and active promotion to organisations working with people in crisis. For example, to advice agencies, social workers hospitals and children’s centres and older people’s events and homeless hostels.
  • Future plans. They will continue to promote the scheme to groups under-represented such as pensioners. They also plan to undertake more research on repeat applications to ensure that they are not only meeting short term needs but making appropriate referrals that address underlying needs.
  • Indepth Liverpool City Council showcase [ 190 kb]