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1. What is Islington’s Residents Support Scheme (RSS)?
A local welfare fund which offers help to residents during times of crisis. Cripplegate Foundation is proud to be a founding partner of the RSS. We contribute to the fund and help in its development. Islington Council manages and funds the scheme, which also administers Islington’s Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP). While the scheme is designed to be temporary whilst they improve their situation, we know that for many people living in poverty in Islington the RSS is a lifeline.” As with most support schemes, there are usually financial constraints involved so, to access the scheme, we prioritise those who are at risk and vulnerable to ensure help gets to them first. There is also an eligibility criteria if you are thinking of applying. Listed here.
2. How is Cripplegate Foundation involved in it? And what is your specific role within the RSS?
Cripplegate Foundation has been involved in the RSS since its inception in 2013 and was in response to the government abolishing the Social Fund. At the time Cripplegate was already supporting a residents’ fund and decided to work with the local authority, pooling resources, to maximise the financial impact of the scheme. Since then, Cripplegate Foundation has been a key partner in the RSS, contributing funding, knowledge and staff support to the scheme every year.
My role within the scheme includes the joint delivery of training with the RSS team to referral partner organisations – currently bi-monthly – producing a bimonthly RSS newsletter with useful information for the RSS partners, organising a six-monthly partners meeting to bring partners together, to inform, learn and share but also for us to find out about the issues or problems and respond to them. I deal with enquiries from residents and partners and also liaise with partners on a range of issues, update the partners contact list, produce some FAQs to get messaging across to help residents improve their understanding of the RSS and awards / delivery process.
3. How can residents apply?
As there is no direct application route for residents to the scheme, we advise that they contact one of the designated RSS partners to make applications on their behalf, and there are a range of referrer partners – from statutory to voluntary sector partners and housing associations. The referrers are best placed to advise on probability of a successful application and to make the application on the resident’s behalf, including identifying additional support to help the resident improve their long-term financial circumstances. In addition to the statutory agencies (Childrens Services, Adult Social Services, Housing Services), voluntary organisations they can contact include Help On Your Doorstep, Age UK, Citizens Advice, The Law Centre, Islington People’s Rights, Centre404, the Manna Centre, just to mention a few.
Since the beginning of the pandemic the local authority has added a ‘direct access’ request link through their website for those residents that either do not have any contact or relationship with a referrer organisation or are having difficulties getting hold of one. This is to ensure that residents’ conditions are not severely impacted by the effect of the pandemic. The website link allows the resident to request support and an outreach officer from the council will respond to them and help complete an application form.
All referrer organisations have access to the online application form and they will engage with the resident to understand what the need is including the long term support that will be required to improve their situation as well as the risk and vulnerability, and ensure they meet the universal criteria.
Awards are split into four categories: Crisis Provision, which include vouchers to buy food, fuel and, exceptionally, clothing (for those fleeing domestic violence or in case of a disaster like a flood or fire) when for a limited period money is not coming in; Community Care Grants, for vulnerable residents that are starting fresh in the community (leaving care, prison, hospital etc.), or setting up home for the first time and have nothing ; Council Tax Support, to help residents who are experiencing short term problems paying their council tax including council tax debt; Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), provides short-term support for housing costs, i.e. to meet any shortfall in rent (like bedroom tax), and also help to cover rent in advance, rent deposits and removal costs.
4. Could you share a recent success story?
I tend to deal with individual enquiries so I try to identify whether residents are part of, for example, a housing association and link them together. Sometimes, it may require the response of the RSS team and I also link them together. Moreover, it is a collaborative process, aiming to ensure everyone is supporting each other and working to the same positive outcome for residents.
For instance, one of the most recent enquiries I took on involved an older resident who was due to move to a new location and needed help with removal costs. Her housing association landlord wasn’t responding to her call so I contacted the RSS team who prioritised her case and assigned a visiting officer to complete a removal application on her behalf and also engage the removal company within the short timeframe that she had to take up the new tenancy. After several calls, I made contact with the housing association contact and safely passed on the details of the resident, urging they call her the same day to confirm with her and assure her they were working on the matter. I made regular and frequent calls to the resident throughout the process to check that she was okay and the different teams were in contact and updating her on progress.
On two separate occasions, when she had not heard back about the confirmed removal company being used, following visits and removal quotes and also from the housing association, I was able to chase up swift responses. The resident was full of gratitude when the move finally took place and I again called her few days afterwards to check that everything went well. It’s an example of how our intervention moved things forward.
5. How long have you been managing the RSS and how has the experience been so far?
I took it on in September 2020 and it’s been quite interesting in a broad sense – the aims scheme, what is trying to achieve, the different teams/partners in the background doing their best to respond to the support needs of residents, the RSS team who, despite the odds, give their very best to keep the process moving as smoothly as possible, the supply chain, the organisations behind the different teams – it’s like a maze.
We’re talking about getting people the support they crucially need and help to move them from A to B, or to C, but also ensuring that they improve their long-term circumstances along the way, including their financial stability. For instance, they request support because they can’t afford to pay their council tax or rent; the question is, is this going to be a permanent situation or can they actually be helped to move into employment to achieve long-term sustainability?
It is challenging and equally satisfying. I really enjoy doing the work, because anything that helps people to move on from a problem or difficult situation to a position of strength provides the impetus and buzz at the end and that’s what you want.
You can read more about the RSS, including a recent case study from the Parent House using the related links below.