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New financial support hub to be introduced

Posted on 7 Oct 2020

 

A new support hub is set to be introduced in North Ayrshire to make it easier for residents to access help with their finances.

North Ayrshire Council agreed to the creation of a ‘Better Off Hub’ at their cabinet meeting on Tuesday 6 October.

This is in recognition that the effects of Covid-19 are causing not only a health crisis, but a financial and economic crisis too.

And as an area that is already home to some of the highest levels of deprivation and child poverty in the country, significant challenges in unemployment and an ageing population, any further hardship could be catastrophic for North Ayrshire. 

The Hub aims to bridge the gap in financial support services already offered by drawing council and third sector services together to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for residents seeking financial support and assistance.

It is hoped that this will form a Public Social Partnership, bringing both public and third sector bodies together to jointly identify, design and deliver services for local people.

At its core, the Hub will offer debt advice, welfare rights, energy advice and employability services. However, other services will be offered and tailored to meet individual’s needs including mental health, addictions, adult literacies, housing, credit union, family support and support agencies such as Women’s Aid. This is in recognition that in order to properly address the financial hardship, you have to address the underlying issue.

The Hub is expected to be located within the Three Towns as its an area known to suffer from high levels of deprivation.  This will be supported by the Council’s wider community hub model as part of its recovery and renewal strategy.

The Better Off Hub will initially be delivered over a two-year period to test this new approach and any learning will then be applied to the delivery of advice services across North Ayrshire.  

Council Leader Joe Cullinane, Cabinet Member for Community Wealth Building, said: “We cannot simply stand back and accept that Covid-19 is going to have a devastating impact on our communities. We must act if we are to be there for our residents in what is arguably their greatest time of need.

“We have already put in place a number of support mechanisms to help with certain aspects of life and livelihoods.  The creation of our Community Hubs at the start of lockdown has allowed our communities to remain connected and our most vulnerable supported.  Our Childcare Hubs enabled parents on the frontline to continue delivering their vital services, knowing their children were being looked after.  The launch of our Community Wealth Building strategy set out our bold and fresh approach to rebuilding our economy.

“And now, with the establishment of our Better Off Hub and the potential of a Public Social Partnership, we are widening the financial support available to our residents.  This won’t simply be a case of responding to someone with debt issues, with debt advice.  This is about building relationships with our residents to understand how the person got into financial difficulty and help overcome the underlying issue.

“It’s a totally different approach to what is currently being offered as it seeks to address the real issue – that could be addiction, literacy, a family situation or a range of other more complex matters – and building tailored support packages that allow individuals to achieve more sustainable outcomes and ultimately reduce future service demands.

“The case for new thinking when it comes to our services is now. Poverty levels are likely to be further impacted as a result of the Covid-19 recession, welfare reforms have reduced income from benefits, wage levels have lagged inflation and in-work poverty is a real issue. Add into the mix our already high unemployment level, which is projected to grow significantly, and you appreciate the vulnerability of the situation.  

“We have to act if we are to meet these challenges head on.”