Hardship fund provides food for struggling residents
Citizens Advice Westminster (CAW) distributed £284,000 of food vouchers to citizens suffering financial hardship between November 2020 and February 2021, at the height of the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable people and families.
Last November, CAW was commissioned by Westminster City Council to distribute its hardship fund by issuing food vouchers to support local residents during the Covid pandemic. The service received referrals from voluntary and statutory agencies across Westminster and sent them to the local authority’s Local Support Team for processing and administration of the food vouchers.
The distribution started on 30th November 2020 and received extensive publicity through the council’s website and from Citizens Advice Westminster’s communications channels across its network in the community.
Adam Zaki, Adviceshop Coordinator, who led the project said: “Data shows that 35 voluntary and statutory agencies submitted applications.These included childrens’ centres, foodbanks, homelessness charities and NHS centres, as well as local councillors. Most of the applications came from agencies working with families and young children. It is, therefore, no surprise that households with young children were one of the greatest beneficiaries of the fund. Residents living in Queens Park, Westbourne and Harrow Road – arguably among the highest deprived wards in London, if not the country – were also the other noticeable beneficiaries. There were also 68 applicants out of 499 who received food vouchers, despite not having recourse to public funds.Together with the local authority’s Local Support Payment team, we worked with 37 voluntary and statutory agencies across the borough to ensure that almost 500 households received Sainsbury’s food vouchers.”
Head of Contracts and Services Foridul Islam said: “This partnership work between City of Westminster Council and Citizens Advice Westminster has worked magnificently well. Citizens Advice Westminster was able to use its trusted brand and strong relationship with stakeholders in the community to attract interest to the fund very quickly. It was also able to process the applications very efficiently and forward them to the Local Support Team for processing. In one particular week, it processed 282 applications. This was a phenomenal achievement. Citizens Advice Westminster would be very happy to utilise its strong presence in the community and work with the Council with similar initiatives in the future.”