The Cumbria County Council created an emergency programme for families and individuals that are facing a crisis. The scheme is Ways to Welfare, and it can provide a number of services to families on a low income and the vulnerable. The aid ranges from referrals to vouchers for food or no interest loans for housing expenses and bills. The type of assistance provided will depend on the results of an interview and assessment.
In a typical month, hundreds of people are receiving help from the emergency scheme, which was created to replace the government discretionary social fund. The programme is limited in funds, and the council will always try to provide referrals first, whether to a local food bank or another charity. This is done in an effort to save funds for the most needy, as there are many other charities that individuals can call upon for help with a rent deposit or other expenses they have.
Expenses addressed by the Cumbria welfare programme
Typically, one half of people calling on the council will get a referral to a local not-for-profit. About 40 per cent apply for a loan from the Ways to Welfare scheme, and the rest may receive some form of voucher or grant for paying their bills. Since it is a cash limited scheme, most of those seeking a grant will be provided a pre-paid card, and that can be used to pay a fuel arrears, buy groceries, or pay for heating costs.
Ways to Welfare tries to assist with housing needs as well, however this is very limited due to funding. There may be some bond guarantees issued by the Cumbria County Council for a rent deposit, however more likely the housing problems are referred to local charities.
Other assistance from the Cumbria welfare programme includes furniture vouchers, clothing, or household items such as kitchen supplies. The aim is to provide short term help for the crisis. Much of this aid is for children too. The support team from the council or local charities have more information on these resources.
Many people will be referred to the council’s community support team as part of this process as well, as this groups has information on programmes in the county. The phone number is 01228 221100. The team can give the individual a voucher for a food bank, and there are several in the area, including Alston, Carlisle, and Appleby. The centres will only provide three days of groceries, but volunteers can signpost the client to other services for addressing the crisis.
Loans from Ways to Welfare scheme
If the applicant meets criteria set by the council, and do not have a chronic history of debt arrears or homelessness, then the council may provide an interest free loan. This is done in partnership with local Credit Unions and other not-for-profit organisations. These funds may also be provided to families on benefits that meet other criteria from the council.
In any case, the loans will only be for applicants with a short term emergency that are facing a one time crisis. The reason this is because the funds will need to be repaid to the Cumbria County Council using an agreed upon payment plan, so the applicant needs to have some form of income.
The money can only be used for certain living expenses as approved by the council. This can include such bills as a fuel arrears or groceries. In limited cases the loan can be used for the payment of housing costs.
The aim is to provide the resident time to get back on track with their finances, as the client can be enrolled into budgeting or other workshops too. The council will also refer the client to job training too. So all this is required as part of the process, and for more information, email the council at [email protected] to request an application.