Liverpool City Council support scheme praised by Citizen Advice Bureau

A scheme designed by Liverpool City Council to help people affected by welfare reforms has seen praise from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme, which in 2013 replaced DWP Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants, has helped almost 9,000 people in 2014 so far.

The programme contributes to urgent needs, such as food, fuel and clothing, as well as home needs such as furniture, white goods and household items supplied through Liverpool Furniture Resource Centre.

Citizens Advice have highlighted the council’s scheme in their new report “Making Welfare Work Locally”, claiming that the city’s approach was exceptional as it was “designed to be flexible and appropriate changes were made during the year as lessons were learned”.

Liverpool City Council have increased their promotion of the scheme and utilised savings incurred introduce a freephone number and support related project initiatives (such as benefits maximisation, as wells as topping up discretionary housing payments budgeting to help people hit by the “Bedroom Tax”).

Gillian Guy, the Citizens Advice Bureau Chief Executive, said:

“When we spoke to staff at Liverpool City Council, we were particularly impressed by how officers were keen that the scheme was able to respond quickly to provide help to people in urgent need as well as help with furniture and household goods.

“It was good to see how they had been able to amend the scheme during the year to respond to feedback from user groups to make it more accessible to a wider range of people in crisis.”

Citizens Advice were especially impressed by the way the scheme was integrated into existing benefits services; allowing the team to assess an application to determine if there were any other entitlements or support available.

Urgent needs awards were typically processed in two days, while home needs claims typically took up to 10.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said:

“These are really tough times for many of our residents who are battling a rising cost of living with a reduction in their benefits and this leaves them extremely vulnerable at times of crisis.

“The help our scheme gives with basic living costs and the essentials of setting up home can make a huge difference.

“We have worked hard to ensure the service is quick, flexible to meet a range of needs and helps people access a range of other support where needed.

“This is part of the council’s commitment to helping those who are most in need, which has also included setting up the Tackling Poverty Action Group which is chaired by Councillor Frank Hont, which looks to coordinate activity across the city with all those agencies working to support our most vulnerable citizens.

“The council also supports food banks through the Mayor’s Hope Fund, uses our reserves to mitigate the impact of the cut in council tax support and gives £1 million to credit unions to try and stop people turning to loan sharks.”

Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme has been extended to help with the costs of moving house as a result of benefits reductions (like the under-occupation penalty, or “Bedroom Tax”), which affects 11,000 tenants in Liverpool.

Support has also been provided for people threatened with eviction due to debt and to help with the cost of starting work.

Liverpool Council has further extended the ue of freephone 0800 numbers to all Benefits Services calls, including housing benefit, council tax support, free school meals, and benefits maximisation advice.

Additional staff are being employed by the benefits maximisation team to help people affected by welfare reforms.

More information about the Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme can be found at


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Words: Peter Cribley

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