How many North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund claims for household goods, white goods and furniture are as a result of people moving home other than of their own volition, for example through rent arrears, eviction, safety concerns.
The purpose of the assistance fund is to provide practical help for vulnerable people who are moving home or seeking to remain within their community often – but not always - due to a crisis. The fund helps to provide a few essential items. There are a range of reasons why people apply for help including: homeless vulnerability, domestic abuse, physical disability, substance dependency.
Since April this year 21.52% (1390) of all standard applications were made through the homeless vulnerability category. Just under a quarter of awards made in this category were as a result of landlords serving notice and in the majority of cases this was because they are selling their properties.
What steps the council is taking to increase support for people in vulnerable groups who experience housing insecurity in that this is evidenced to have significant negative impact on people’s physical and mental health.
There is a range of support available for people experiencing housing insecurity. North Yorkshire Council are committed to the prevention of homelessness. The authority recognises that homelessness prevention is key to developing an effective response to the challenges of homelessness. The Housing Options service provides advice and assistance in each locality that is tailored to an applicant’s needs, the advice available also includes support for those who are in financial need. As previously stated, the options available will vary dependent on the applicants’ requirements but may include ensuring the applicant is in receipt of the correct income, this includes assistance with applying for housing costs to prevent homelessness.
If an applicant requires support with current debt, then our officers will assist with tackling housing arrears and other debts whilst referring to specialist agencies for ongoing support with managing their finances.
All Housing Options localities are recognised authorised agents for the North Yorkshire Local Assistance fund, the fund provides practical support for vulnerable people which can include essential items such as food, utility top-up one and white good items.
North Yorkshire Council also recognises that applicants may require financial assistance to obtain accommodation to prevent and relieve homelessness, the authority will assist with financial help towards the cost of a bond and/or first month’s rent in advance for the applicant to move into alternative affordable accommodation (please note, conditions apply).
It is also important to note that all localities within the Housing Options service have a dedicated Homeless Prevention Team. The Homeless Prevention Officers work with those in temporary accommodation and those at risk of homelessness in the community. For those who are currently housed but are struggling to maintain or sustain their accommodation the officers will provide a holistic approach in capturing a customer’s needs. This may include ensuring the applicant has assistance to prevent an immediate financial setback and from becoming in long-term financial crisis, our homeless prevention team helps residents stay in their homes by supporting them with utility support and payment plans for any debt owed within the accommodation.
Within Health and Adult Services there is the Income Maximisation team whose role it is to improve the financial health and well-being of our citizens. We provide this as a preventative service, but the same offer is also provided as part of the means tested financial assessment for social care and support customers. It includes holistic advocacy, advice and support for vulnerable people across the whole of North Yorkshire, to ensure that they receive their full entitlement to both cash based and non-cash benefits. The Revenues and Benefits service also offer Council Tax support.
Additional housing and living well staff have been employed to support migration programmes and to provide additional overall capacity within those teams.
Given that these household items will have a significantly higher unit cost than food or energy vouchers what pressure will this increase have on the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund budget and therefore if it might be necessary to make contingency to increase this fund.
Demand on the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund will sometimes experience peaks and troughs. We regularly monitor demand and keep the level of expenditure under review in order that we can respond as necessary. The council’s general contingency fund is used to support the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund budget if there is a need for additional funds.
Give assurances that the indication elsewhere in our Council papers that Councillors are able to use their locality budgets to fund organisations that support a very similar group of vulnerable people, whether this is an attempt to ease pressure on the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund budget at the expense of the community development opportunities typically funded through Councillor locality budgets.
The criteria for Member Locality budgets were set by the Executive and variations to the criteria agreed by the Executive Member. Locality budgets support organisations and community projects responding to local needs and priorities - whereas North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund is support for individuals. Members can recommend projects that they wish to support in their areas and as in previous years this will include a range of community initiatives. This year, recognising that many voluntary groups are already expanding their activities to support people due to the cost-of-living crisis – for example opening their buildings as warm spaces over winter – this has been added to the criteria in order to provide assistance to local groups and charities. This is in addition to the personal support offered through North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund.