LiveWest has reached the milestone of issuing 1,000 crisis and hardship grants to its customers since the end of March.
With COVID-19 putting a strain on people’s health and finances, the housing provider has given more than £200,000 in direct resident grants to support its most vulnerable customers.
The investment means the social housing provider has supplied grants to one in every 40 of the households it houses.
The total amount provided between the first lockdown and today is 10 times more than LiveWest provided last year under its crisis grants programme, and it is expecting to it give out another £200,000 by the end of March 2021.
Tim Wotton, Grants manager for LiveWest, said: “COVID-19 means many more of our customers are really struggling as a result of changes to their income, employment or as a result of increased living costs.
“Through a combined approach, including our Tenancy Sustainment team, working with community organisations and other partners and agencies, we are able to help customers ensure they are accessing longer term support.
“Where other funding or support isn’t available, our Crisis and Hardship grants can provide a small amount of help at times of crisis to help cover specific emergency costs.
“It’s concerning that we are seeing 10 times the number of people asking for support we would in a normal year, but fantastic that LiveWest has stepped up to the plate to support customers, and their feedback shows just how much they appreciate it.
“We’ve had families explaining how our support has helped them be able to feed their family, turn the heating on again in the cold winter months, or to provide basic furniture or goods that so many people take for granted.”
The grants are designed to support customers facing genuine financial hardship and who are struggling with specific costs – such as family costs resulting from children being at home or the failure of major white goods.
Tim Wotton explained: “We aren’t here to make up a shortfall, but we can provide one off help where all other options have been exhausted.”
Carly Green (pictured), of Bishopsteignton, South Devon, secured a place at Cardiff University to embark on a law degree in September 2018.
Her family were not in a position to help her financially, and she faced some challenges over how she was going to be able to fund her studies.
In addition to being thrown into a world of rent, bills, and groceries, Carly needed to find vast amounts of money for textbooks and equipment to support her learning.
The mounting pressure meant Carly almost quit university in her first year as she found it increasingly difficult to keep pace with the financial demands.
That was until LiveWest stepped in to help fund a new laptop and essential course textbooks.
Carly, 20, said: “In the first year, after a very rocky start where I almost gave up, I managed to find my feet and finished the year with some positive results.
“I can honestly say that without LiveWest’s assistance in buying a personal laptop and textbooks, I would not have achieved the marks I have been getting.
“I was able to study from my halls of residence thanks to the laptop, and even when I missed lectures due to illness, I could keep on top of my work and catch up.
“That funding was an absolute lifeline for me, and without it, I would have struggled to have got this far.”
Another customer commented: “The grant has made such a huge difference as I have been struggling financially since losing my full-time job due to COVID-19.
“It has meant I can order food and also have help with my gas and electric, and all these are things I’ve worried about.
“The difference is that I have been able to not worry so much, and the grant has eased the burden financially and I’m so appreciative of this being available as it’s truly been a lifeline.”
As well as issuing more than £200,000 in crisis and hardship grants, LiveWest has launched a new £100,000 grants programme to support digital projects and community spaces across the south west of England.
The money will go to community groups and organisations that support its residents with digital initiatives and enhancing community spaces.
Tim Wotton added: “We recognise the importance of our customers being able to get online and access digital services.
“We believe that not only is digital access essential in managing day-to-day living in the modern world, but also digital access can bring benefits in terms of social isolation, managing households, benefits and budgeting, and as a tool to support social inclusion and health and wellbeing.
“We work in partnership with a wide range of community organisations to maintain or develop new viable community spaces.
“Many existing community spaces have been hit hard by Coronavirus and are now reconfiguring and changing what they do and how they deliver services.
“The aim of our finding is to supportsustainable community spaces that will benefit LiveWest residents and the broader community.”
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