Features: July 3rd, 2015

This feature describes how West Sussex County Council partnered with charities to being help to people in need.

Following changes to funding available to the Department for Work and Pensions*, local welfare funding was made available directly to Local Authorities to assist people in their regions who are either on a low income or on benefits, and find themselves in a crisis situation. Since April 2015 West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has been funding this assistance itself.

According to Guy Rodgers, Service Development Worker at WSCC, “To help facilitate the Local Assistance Network, as our scheme is called, we partnered with local organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB); local charities who provide used furniture and white goods; Probation, the youth service; and local Children & Family Centres. One of the ways in which we assist those people who are in need, is the provision of retail gift cards. If a person presents at Probation, the CAB or the Youth Service and is in need of food or toiletries, for example, then they are given either a gift card or a multiple of gift cards to enable them to get what they need. We also hold vouchers for local foodbanks, however they are not all open every day during the week and they don’t carry supplies of all essentials.”

People may be in need for a variety of reasons – they may be on zero-hours contracts, low income, or on benefits and have had their benefits suspended due to a change in circumstances or are under a sanction.

Guy continues, “We chose Asda gift cards as one of our preferred retailers because West Sussex covers a diverse area. As such there is a need to offer gift cards for a corresponding diversity in stores, and we try to provide cards that can be used in the nearest store to the recipient to save them additional expenditure in travel. Fortunately, by purchasing in bulk directly from Asda Business Rewards, we are able to obtain a discount, which means we can make our limited funds go further. In 2014/15 we had over 6,000 applications for assistance and were able to provide help in 99% of cases.”

“The benefit of adding Asda gift cards to the list of available items means that applicants can have greater access to food and essential household items. It is also crucial that we are providing access to stores across West Sussex that offer good value for money to ourselves. Asda Business Rewards has definitely met expectation, and delivered a very prompt service with good discounts.”

West Sussex County Council is responsible for public services such as education, transport, strategic planning, emergency services, social services, public safety and waste disposal. The council delivers its services to around 800,000 people across the county.

*As part of the funding review in April 2013, the Government felt that Local Authorities were best place to help those in crisis in their areas. Following the success of the Government-funded scheme locally during the first 2 years, West Sussex decided this service was something that was essential in helping people through their crises and, in addition, helped them change their habits to avert further, similar, crisis situations. It decided to fund this scheme itself, expecting that the Government was going to cease further funding. The scheme, locally, is called the Local Assistance Network and is accessed through local, regional, partners. This means that applicants can get an almost instant response to their request for assistance and has resulted in increased visibility of the partner organisation services. Applicants can obtain white goods, furniture, food, clothing, some travel costs, and energy top ups. Where possible, the Local Assistance Network provides pre-used items of furniture and white goods, however when these are not available newly purchased items are provided.