KNOWSLEY: Fund to help families in wake of pandemic approved
A “unique” £2.5m fund to help families in Knowsley struggling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic has been approved.
The fund, first announced at Knowsley Council’s budget meeting earlier this month, includes money for essentials like food and fuel, support with rent arrears and bridging payments to help people into employment.
At a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday, leader Graham Morgan said he was “proud” that the council had set up the fund, adding that the money would “ensure we get the right support to those residents who most need our help at this time”.
He said: “At a time when our communities need us more than ever, these proposals offer our residents a comprehensive range of support to help them get back on their feet after a year of destruction and challenges.”
Among the proposals is a £250,000 allocation to help around 300 long-term unemployed people back into work by providing “bridging payments” that will effectively pay them a minimum wage salary until they receive their first pay cheque.
This will mean they will be able to cover their living costs for the first few weeks of employment, when they stop being eligible for benefits but have not yet been paid.
Cllr Jayne Aston, the council’s finance chief, praised this part of the fund as “unique”, adding: “That’s going to support people into employment and it’s alleviating potential debt. A lot of people suffer when they’re transferring from benefits to employment so I’m particularly proud of that element of the scheme.”
According to a report providing the cabinet with details of the scheme, the bulk of the £2.5m will be paid to community and voluntary organisations rather than directly to residents.
One of the largest allocations is £450,000 for community organisations providing food and other essentials to those struggling due to the pandemic. The report said the money would help the organisations “buy more food and improve their storage and other facilities”.
Another £750,000 will go towards helping people with housing problems, including £350,000 to meet a huge rise in demand for discretionary housing payments. These payments allow the council to provide short-term help to people on Housing Benefit or Universal Credit that need extra assistance with housing costs.
There is another £200,000 to help around 200 households with rent arrears, preventing them from becoming homeless, and £200,000 to provide social housing tenants with things like fuel vouchers, hygiene packs and Christmas food.
The fund also includes £529,000 for help with debt and benefit advice, mostly for extra staff both at the council and at voluntary organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Details of the other major fund approved at the council’s budget meeting – a £6.4m recovery fund for the borough – are still to be announced.
Words: Chris McKeon, Local Democracy Reporter
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