A scheme launched by Mayor Steve Rotheram to support people hardest hit by the cost of living crisis has helped people to write off personal debts totalling £3m in its first nine months.
Mayor Rotheram launched Mind and Money at the start of 2023 to target 2,500 of the Liverpool City Region’s most vulnerable residents.
The £2m project, run by The Women’s Organisation, Vauxhall Law Centre, Pennysmart and Citizens Advice, has already helped 1,400 people – cutting debt by £3m and maximising income by a total of £800,000.
It is part of the Combined Authority’s wider £5m cost of living support package and is in addition to the city region’s £105m retrofitting programme, which is helping some of the poorest households to save hundreds of pounds a month on their energy bills.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, said, “When people fall on hard times, we want to help ease that burden by providing a safety net of support. The cost of living crisis has been the most challenging period that many residents in our area have ever faced, inflicting untold stress, anxiety and financial worries on families already struggling to make ends meet.
“Our support scheme has helped some of the most vulnerable in our community to not only reduce their debts, but increase their income at the same time. Support like this simply would not have been possible without devolution – it’s giving areas like ours the opportunity to invest in schemes that make a genuine difference to people’s lives.”
The service is aimed at supporting people in crisis but is also designed to help them develop long-term financial resilience.
It assists with debt and money management, support to maximize income, as well as guidance on energy efficiency and how to access home improvement schemes. So far, fuel vouchers worth £5,655 have been given out.
Support is aimed at the economically vulnerable – including low earners and workers on zero-hours contracts – and people suffering health conditions, including long Covid.
It is also aimed at people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and people living in deprived areas.
Access to the help is made through key referral points such as GPs, mental health and other community and public health organisations.
Councillor Mike Wharton, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and Business, said, “This initiative has been invaluable to those who have borne the brunt of the cost of living crisis by helping to deal with crippling debt, making sure they are getting all of the income they are entitled to and putting long-term strategies into place.
“The feedback so far is really encouraging and demonstrates the value of the scheme. Lifting such a heavy burden of debt will have had a transformative effect for so many families across the city region.”
Hitesh Patel, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Halton, said, “The project has been really beneficial because we are very busy at the moment with the sheer volume of people needing help. Crippling debts have been written off and much-needed income has gone into household budgets, maximising people’s benefits and making sure they are paying the right amount of tax. Mind and Money has made a massive difference – not only is it helping people to get on a financial even keel, but it is also improving their life chances, and their standard of living in the long term.”
Elly Smith, Development Office at Vauxhall Law Centre, said, “Reaching out for help when you are struggling is a hard thing to do so the Mind and Money project really helps by bringing advice agencies together so that we can combat the issues people face and give them the support they need. Energy advice is a particular worry for lots of people, many of whom are going home and not being able to put the gas and electric on, going without food or not being able to feed their children.”
Professor Maggie O’Carroll, Chief Executive of 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 are hugely important in helping navigate and minimise the impact of rapidly rising costs.
“The Mind and Money is supporting Liverpool City Region residents with energy efficiency support, income maximisation, financial and personal confidence and debt reduction and we’re delighted to be involved in something that is already making a real difference to people’s lives.”