A motion to improve Wokingham Borough Council’s Local Welfare Provision Scheme (otherwise known as emergency hardship payments), was passed at full council last Thursday (21 July).
This means the council will now be reviewing the effectiveness of the support it offers, including this scheme, which is designed to help people who are in a crisis or emergency, and who would benefit from financial support, goods, vouchers or services to prevent the situation from escalating.
This includes people who may have recently left care or prison, or who have been experiencing domestic abuse, and who need help accessing white goods.
Working with the community
It will be working with the local voluntary and community sector, and residents, to understand how people who need crisis assistance can be better supported by the council and partners.
It will also look at things like how well schemes like this are signposted to, removing barriers to application, and improving knowledge of support schemes amongst council staff.
Help is here
In the meantime, it is encouraging residents to learn more about the support available from the council:
- If you are struggling to pay for food, energy bills and other household essentials you might be eligible for food, fuel, or cash vouchers through the Household Support Fund
- If you are in an emergency situation you may be eligible for help accessing good, vouchers, or services, through the existing Local Welfare Provision scheme
- If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax, you may be eligible to a Council Tax discount or exemption
- If you receive Housing Benefit or Universal Credit and it doesn’t cover all your rent, you may be able to get a Discretionary Housing Payment to help
- If you are a local business and need help with business rates, or are struggling to pay, you may be eligible for a reduction and further support
- If you receive certain benefits your child may be eligible for free school meals
You can find more details on help available in the borough on the Local Support Hub.
Support needed now more than ever
Cllr Rachel Burgess, Wokingham Borough labour leader and submitter of the motion, said: “I am delighted that my motion calling for a full review of the Council's Local Welfare Provision Scheme was passed unanimously by all parties at Full Council.
"This scheme exists to provide emergency support to those in financial crisis - and it is needed now more than ever. At the moment the scheme is hardly used, and that has got to change. This review is the start, to ensure people have a crucial safety net when they need it most.”
The motion supports the aims and objectives outlined in the council’s new Tackling Poverty Strategy, which was published earlier this month. Together with the Hardship Alliance, the council wants to work towards ending poverty in Wokingham Borough.
Cllr Rachel Bishop-Firth, executive member for equalities, inclusion and fighting poverty, said: “One of the key focus areas in our year one action plan for tackling poverty is promoting take-up of support and advice that is available across the borough.
"But we also know that we have improvements to make in our own processes and services. I’m pleased to support this motion put forward by Cllr Burgess, and look forward to working with the VCS, residents and council staff to make improvements.”
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