A £2m support scheme has been launched by Mayor Steve Rotheram to help the Liverpool City Region’s most vulnerable residents withstand the cost-of-living crisis.
The Combined Authority (CA) has joined forces with The Women’s Organisation and Citizens Advice and other community providers to offer the Better Off Support (BOS) programme.
BOS is part of a wider £5m cost of living support package unveiled by Mayor Rotheram last year in addition to the region’s £60m retrofitting programme, which is helping some of the poorest households to save up to £200 a month on their energy bills.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region, said, “Helping people in their moment of need comes naturally to people in our area – and that’s exactly what we are trying to do with our Better Off Support programme. We want to help ease the burden being placed on some of our most vulnerable residents – and this support is targeted at helping more than 2,500 people to get through some of the most challenging periods many of them will ever face.
“The events of the past few years, coupled with a cost of living crisis, mean that the most vulnerable in our communities are being hit the hardest – for some families, that has meant having to make the impossible choice between heating or eating this winter.
“While national government dithers, devolution is giving local leaders the ability to step in and step up for local people. Think of it as radical kindness – it’s the Liverpool City Region leading the way in showing the rest of the country how to build a fairer, more equal place to live – where no one is left behind.”
The scheme will deploy a range of targeted advice and guidance support to people hardest hit by the sudden rise in the price of food and energy to help them escape financial chaos and achieve a level of personal stability.
BOS will help people deal with debt and manage their money whilst providing support to maximize income, as well as guidance on energy efficiency and how to access home improvement schemes.
It aims to reach people who are economically vulnerable – including low earners and workers on zero-hours contracts – and people suffering health conditions, including long Covid, people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and people living in deprived areas.
The programme comes in the wake of a CA-commissioned report mapping out the scale of food poverty across the city region – with food banks unable to meet rising demand due to the deepening cost-of-living crisis.
BOS has received £2m from the Liverpool City Region’s £44.4m UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) allocation.
The UKSPF has been created to replace European funding following Brexit.
Under UKSPF, Liverpool City Region is set to lose around £10.2m annually compared to its previous European Union allocation – a cut of around 37%.
Although recent price rises have plunged many households into crisis, there are several target profiles where the impact is particularly profound.
The scheme will offer practical support, advice and financial resilience support for 2,500 residents across areas of Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and Wirral.
Access to the help will be made through key referral points such as GPs, mental health and other community and public health organisations.
Short-term fixes will be offered to urgent problems but ultimately the support is aimed at changing people’s mindset to better equip them to take control of their long-term future.
Rather than living day-to-day and simply surviving, people will be encouraged to achieve stability and control, building self-esteem and confidence.
Professor Maggie O’Carroll, Chief Executive Officer, The Women’s Organisation, said, “The astronomical rise in the cost of living has resulted in people experiencing severe difficulty when trying to balance their household budgets. Financial resilience, skills and information is hugely important in helping navigate and minimise the impact of rapidly rising costs.
“I am pleased that BOS will support LCR residents with energy efficiency support, income maximation, financial and personal confidence and debt reduction and this will make a real difference to people lives.”
Citizens Advice Halton said, “Every week Citizens Advice offices across the Liverpool City Region see hundreds of households struggling to make ends meet, struggling with the difficult choice of heating or eating, and struggling with debt and other social welfare problems.
“So we are very grateful to be part of this programme because it provides a vital support service to people in crisis because of the rising cost of living.”
Councillor Janette Williamson, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy and Third Sector, said, “Everyone is affected in some way by the rising cost of living but for people already economically vulnerable, soaring bills can be catastrophic.
“This important scheme will provide much needed support with food, energy, staying warm, household goods or debt management to those most in need of help.”