Local action to tackle food insecurity: summary of activities, trends and learning

This report summarises the activities delivered by local authorities using flexible funding streams on financial insecurity over October 2020 – March 2021, and highlights trends and learning to enhance future policy and practice.

Activities delivered

The general activities delivered with flexible funding between October 2020 – March 2021 have been synthesised in to 7 groupings: emergency income, emergency food, emergency fuel, income maximisation, other activities to support wellbeing, activities targeted at marginalised groups, and partnership working. A note on concerns raised by local authorities is also included here.

Emergency income

  • Additional funding provided to Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments to meet increased demand, to increase awards, and parallel use of these mechanisms to process further payments to those eligible
  • Bespoke financial hardship funds introduced, key objectives included:
    • Assistance in advance of crisis to low income households, such as to households likely to experience hardship during 5 week wait for Universal Credit.
    • Targeted at groups who may otherwise be ineligible for mainstream support, such as workers who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, or destitute asylum seekers with no recourse to public funds.
    • To meet specific costs, such as the cost of food, fuel, travel to vaccination centres, and cost of temporary accommodation to isolate
  • Administered free school meal replacement as direct payments, vouchers available if payment would negate support e.g. where household has debt
  • Additional Pandemic Support Payments administered and eligibility expanded, often targeted at low income families with children

Emergency food

  • Provided funding to existing and newly established food banks and other community organisations who pivoted from communal food activities to parcel or meal-based delivery or collection approaches
  • Provided public sector food interventions, including Free School Meal replacement parcels, hardship parcels, and pre-prepared meals for those requiring assistance
  • Provided access to council buildings, staff and transportation to support the storage, preparation and distribution of food
  • Procured additional food for both public sector and community interventions, often using community-wealth building approaches to support local economy
  • Adapted provision to meet cultural and nutritional needs, and wider household needs
  • Refined pathways between food provision and financial assistance services
  • Established alternative food access models, including food pantries, larders and fridges – both council-led and locally-led, often with a view to recovery and social renewal

Emergency fuel

  • Provided fuel vouchers, meter payment cards, assistance with solid fuels, assistance with fuel arrears, and related assistance if in danger of disconnection
  • Refined pathways to energy advice to manage costs and switch to most appropriate provider, working with national partners such as Warm Works, Home Energy Scotland, Citrus Energy and the FuelBank Foundation, and local CAB and third sector organisations

Income maximisation

  • Integrated benefit checks, money and debt advice, financial inclusion and employability advice in the triaging of calls to local helpline and other key support services
  • Proactive outreach to households likely to be worried about income
  • Embedded advisors in other frontline services, including schools and healthcare settings
  • Additional funding provided for money advice services to meet increased demand, supported specialist advice and established employability hubs
  • Information distributed through:
    • local authority websites, corporate communications, benefit award letters signpost to further help, social media
    • community and third sector groups including food aid providers, welfare and debt advice sector, schools
    • community leaders and word of mouth in smaller communities

Other activities to support wellbeing

  • Discussion of whole needs for all members of the household in the handling of calls through local helplines and key support services – material, financial and emotional.
  • Integration of period products, digital devices and data, clothes, toys, activities packs, and other household essentials in public sector and community interventions
  • Funding and pathways in to befriending and social isolation support, physical and mental health services, training and skills development

Marginalised groups

  • Collaboration with trusted partners and other frontline services to reach marginalised groups e.g. community liaison teams, housing teams
  • Adaptation of support, including
    • translation of information in multiple languages
    • provision of culturally and age appropriate food to meet faith, ethnic and dietary needs, and the needs of older and younger people
    • home delivery of food and other essentials to those unable to access retail due to age, disability or geography, including the provision of mobile shops in rural areas
    • higher value payments to account for higher cost of food and other essentials in remote and island communities
    • wraparound support for people who are rough sleeping and victims of domestic abuse

Partnership working

  • Cross-cutting approaches within authorities
  • Multi-agency approaches, including:
    • Community and voluntary organisations, and Third Sector Interfaces
    • Health and social care partnerships
    • Resilience Partnerships

Private sector, including local business

Concerns identified by local authorities

  • While there has been a reduction in number of requests to the national and local helpline seeking direct assistance with food, fuel and income compared to the peak months in Spring and Winter 2020, the pace of economic recovery is likely to result in an overall higher level of chronic need
  • Poorer physical and mental health is likely to result in more complex need

  • The removal of key national supports such as the Universal Credit uplift and furlough scheme in the Autumn are likely to create a wave of further hardship
  • EU Exit is likely to continue having a disproportionate impact on some sectors, creating further pockets of hardship in some communities
  • Data sharing limitations make it difficult to identify households who would benefit from early preventative support
  • The short term nature of flexible funding allocations and limited notice of whether further funds would be available made it difficult to plan
  • The various nationally administered funds for community and third sector action were not always understood, with some concern around duplication and join-up
  • Additional responsibilities and loss of staff to ill health has increased pressure on remaining colleagues
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