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New project aims to help make North Ayrshire Better Off

Posted on 16 Oct 2017

A new initiative aimed at helping people on low incomes maximise their resources was launched today (Monday).

Better Off North Ayrshire is funded jointly by the European Social Fund and Big Lottery Fund Scotland with £3m awarded for a three year period to 2020. It is a collaboration between the Council and a range of third sector delivery partners with a focus on improving the financial circumstances of people out of work or on low incomes.

And it was formally launched on the first day of Challenge Poverty Week – a nationwide initiative to raise awareness of the existence of poverty in our communities – as the Council ramps up its bid to reduce inequality and poverty in North Ayrshire.

The Better Off service is a one-stop shop that will provide a range of advice and support to help ease the financial worries for those on lower incomes, out of work, or who are lone parents.

The launch took place at Playz Community Centre in Pennyburn. This is one of the hub venues that Better Off is delivering services from. The others being at the Michael Lynch Centre in Ardrossan, CEiS (Stevenston) and the  Fullarton Centre in Irvine. An additional hub will open in Kilbirnie in November.

 Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council, said: “We are incredibly proud to be launching Better Off North Ayrshire. It is apt that we are doing so at the very beginning of Challenge Poverty Week.

“We can’t hide from the fact that poverty affects communities across North Ayrshire. But we want to make a difference. We want to help people and we want to support people.

 “We are bringing services and expertise together in what will be a united effort by all of us.  A particular focus will be on loans and household good services.

 “Our research estimates that 10,000 people in North Ayrshire borrow a total of £10million from payday lenders, home credit companies, rent-to-buy outlets and pawnbrokers each year, paying around £5million in interest in the process. So we are looking to see how we can provide more ethical and affordable options to some of those that are out there just now.

 “We want to really engage with people, find out what kind of financial issues they are experiencing and help them. Our team at Better Off North Ayrshire will provide ongoing support to help them towards financial sustainability.”

Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland Chair,said: “I am delighted that the people of North Ayrshire will benefit from this funding, thanks in part to money raised by National Lottery players. The Better Off North Ayrshire service will help people facing disadvantage in the area to improve their money management skills and lower their debt burden, which often acts as a barrier to social inclusion.”

 Expert teams from a variety of partners will be available to offer a range of support from managing your money and debts, digital access and training, finding the best credit options, helping you explore cheaper fuel options and sourcing low-cost furniture.

 The Council put in an additional £400,000 to support the project. This included the funding for the online tool and to support financial inclusion work within the Health and Social Care Partnership.

 The Better Off North Ayrshire website (northayrshire.betteroff.org.uk) will also be stacked full of helpful information to help with benefits applications, budgeting and money advice. It will also help users access childcare and apply for jobs.

 The partners supporting the Council are 1st Alliance, Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Housing Advocacy Project (CHAP), Community LED Action and Support Programme (CLASP), Cunninghame Furniture Recycling Company, Citrus Energy, ANCHO.