A total of £300,000 is to be made available across Liverpool over the next year for community organisations to help people that are struggling to make ends meet.
The Mayoral Hardship Fund – which totals £2 million over the next three years – has been established by Mayor Joe Anderson in response to growing pressures on low income households.
A Cumulative Impact Assessment by Liverpool City Council earlier this year showed more than 20 changes to working age benefits since 2010 have affected around 55,000 households – one in four – with the long term sick and disabled, children and women disproportionately hit.
Around 10,500 working households get help with their Council Tax due to low income – and they are also helped by the council’s decision to use its own money to shelter low income households from the full effects of Government funding cuts to Council Tax Support.
The funding, which is new money set aside in the council’s budget, is in addition to Discretionary Housing Payments and the Liverpool Citizen Support Scheme which already pay out over £5 million each year in rent top ups and emergency payments.
Each of the 30 wards in the city will be allocated £10,000 to be spent by April 2018, with councillors recommending small grants to community and local voluntary organisations that help residents with basic needs to keep their heads above water.
Mayor Anderson said: “The Government’s welfare reforms have hit the most vulnerable in our city hard and it is absolutely perverse that we as one part of the public sector are having to pick up the pieces caused by cuts in another part of the public sector when we have already faced a 64 percent reduction in our budget.
“But we cannot and will not just sit by and watch as some of our most vulnerable families are left struggling and worrying how they will pay for essentials such as food and clothing.
“Contrary to the Government’s narrative, many households that are being hit by the welfare benefits changes, tax credit cuts and the bedroom tax have someone in work. All it is doing is dragging more children into poverty and affecting their life chances.
“This is just one of a number of measures that we are introducing to help the poorest families, such as our own not-for-profit energy firm – the Leccy – to help those in fuel poverty.”
Councillors will be able to make applications to provide support to community organisations who help those facing hardship in their local areas when the scheme launches later this summer.
The remainder of the Hardship Fund will go to a separate pot administered through the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme for individuals whose applications fall slightly outside the usual criteria for an award.