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Making welfare work locally: Surrey County Council

30 October 2014

Surrey County Council

Local Assistance Scheme (LAs)

''Protecting vulnerable people is core to what we do, and over the last 18 months our local assistance scheme has given over £900,000 worth of vital crisis grants to Surrey families going through hard times.

“Our scheme has helped over 5,800 people out with everything from basics shopping and petrol to recycled furniture, and it also offers access to support services so families are less likely to rely on our help in future and we save taxpayers' money in the long run.

“We’ve worked closely with Citizens Advice, charities and other councils to make a real difference to Surrey families, and our officers behind the scheme got national recognition for their community work in the 2014 Peer Awards.”

Councillor Denise Le Gal, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Business Services

Summary of scheme

  • Phone applications are made though Surrey CAB and other local advice and support providers, including Surrey Council social care teams and homelessness charities. Online applications will shortly open to the public.
  • Available to anyone aged over 16 who lives in Surrey, or is intending to within the next 28 days, and cannot afford their essential needs.
  • Applications are one-off but discretion to provide more.
  • Instant decision on the phone during application.
  • Monetary support provided via pre-paid cards with spending limited to particular categories of shop.
  • Furniture, white goods and household items via the Surrey Furniture Reuse network.

Key facts and figures

Year one (2013-14)

  • 3349 applications in total and a 89 per cent acceptance rate.
  • 2100 card only awards granted.
  • 670 Surrey Reuse Network only awards granted.
  • 218 card and Surrey Reuse Network awards granted.

Year two (2014-15) to end September

  • 3050 applications in first 6 months, 93 per cent acceptance rate.
  • 2050 card only awards.
  • 590 Surrey Reuse Network awards.
  • 180 card and Surrey Reuse Network awards.

Why Surrey’s work stood out

Surrey consulted early with a range of their local advice and service providers, keen to use their new responsibilities to provide a service that responded quickly to people in crisis, but that also ensured support to wider community services that would help them get to the source of the problem.  As a partner, the CAB provided immediate access to the scheme and referred on to advice and support services in the community. The Furniture reuse projects made efficient and ethical use of resources and were able to deliver items quickly, arrange fittings and collect and dispose of old items appropriately.

Strengths of the project

  • Planning and strategy. As early as 2011 the council set up a planning group made up of representatives of different council departments, housing associations, CAB and the Furniture reuse network. They pooled their understanding of their residents and used insight from research commissioned by the wider council welfare reform strategy group to understand the needs of the potential service users.
  • Using the CAB and other agencies as application routes. This enables identification of the claimants’ wider needs and referrals to relevant support services, encouraging and enabling claimants’ independence.
  • Partnering with the Surrey reuse network (SRN) to provide a fast, affordable and sustainable service. Surrey reuse network provided household goods and furniture, often on the day of referral. The resident is invited to visit and view or have a delivery sent to them. Old items they are replacing are also collected.
  • Changing delivery to meet demands and improve services, recognising need or different options. They have extended phone claims to a few family, homeless and furniture projects and plan to introduce public access online. They have reassessed the amount allocated for food and after a cautious initial promotion, now promote the scheme to a wider number of organisations.
  • Communicating and promoting the scheme. They distributed 20,000 leaflets via local organisations including bureaux, housing associations, libraries and homeless shelters. Staff gave face-to-face presentations to frontline service provider organisations and clear information is also available on the council’s website.

Indepth Surrey County Council showcase [ 190 kb]