Activity in 2021-22 generally built on trends identified in 2020-21. There was a further strengthening of cash-first support with all local authorities taking action on this theme and around 70% of reported spend being targeted in this way. There is also evidence of deeper partnership working between relevant services, in particular through coordinating groups and referral pathway improvement.
Monitoring returns indicate that the key outcomes for people supported through this resource have been improved access to emergency financial assistance, increased financial gains beyond the value of crisis support, and improvements to mental health and wider wellbeing.
1. Further strengthening of cash-first responses
All local authorities that submitted returns included an element of cash-first action, often reflecting on feedback from last year which highlighted people preferred the choice of where to access food, and could better meet their dietary and cultural needs.
Most strengthened existing cash-first interventions, and some to put in place new interventions though others reported that it was challenging to consider new interventions when funding is announced with short notice and is time-limited in nature.
Local authorities reported continuing to value having the flexibility to provide alternative support, including shopping cards and through direct food and fuel provision where this may be the most appropriate response – for example in cases of debt or coercive control. This flexibility also enabled local partners to meet wider emerging needs, such as digital access and cold weather clothing.
2. Proactive and reactive responses
Following on from 2020-21, all local authorities continued to take inbound contacts on a range of issues via the National Assistance Helpline and linked local helplines. This service was closed on 1 May 2022 alongside related interventions targeted at those with heightened clinical risk, in line with clinical advice to support the effective management of COVID. Local authorities have continued to support people experiencing financial hardship through a range of dedicated local contact points.
Data held by local authorities was used to help proactively identify and reach out to people who may have been experiencing hardship, including data on council tax reduction, free school meal and school clothing grant eligibility. This had proved to be a vital resource in 2020-21 and was again valuable this year, but could be further improved.
3. Multi-agency partnerships and whole needs approaches
Many local partners further enhanced the pathways between services, building on experience from the previous year so as to offer holistic and person centred support. This reached beyond crisis provision, and often included employability, housing and befriending services. For example in Glasgow, the Glasgow Helps initiative provides a holistic pathway to a range of services delivered across sectors.
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