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LEEDS: Increase in Leeds families seeking help with post-Covid financial problems

LEEDS: Increase in Leeds families seeking help with post-Covid financial problems

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More and more households in Leeds struggling with the financial ripples of the Covid-19 pandemic are coming to Leeds City Council for help, according to a report from council officers.

It added that the number of people facing crises in Leeds is likely to rise in future was likely to rise due to rising energy prices and the Government’s scrapping of the £20 a week Universal Credit uplift.

Leeds City Council’s welfare support scheme (LWSS) is designed to help people living in the city who find themselves in an emergency, and offers them short term support, such as food hampers/vouchers, fuel vouchers, white goods, furniture and flooring.

But council officers have warned that some are in such financial hardship that they are asking for help multiple times, and have called for a review into the service.

A report, set to go before members of the council’s environment committee this week states: “The scheme, in its current form, requires improvement as the short-term support provided to customers in financial crisis often results in customers re-presenting for further support.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put further pressures on low-income households and the most vulnerable in our society and has also pushed many more households into financial uncertainty, hardship, to seek support and advice, and to claim benefits.

“A review of the scheme is needed in order to provide better support to customers in-need over the short, medium and long-term and to ultimately reduce dependency on local welfare support across the city, whether through Leeds City Council, our partner advice services or third sector organisations.”

It added that demand for help from the scheme was likely to increase in the coming months due to the end of furlough, the removal of the Universal Credit uplift and rising costs of energy.

The scheme, which has been running since 2003, has seen reductions in its budget between 2013 and 2018, going from £1.3m to its current total of £600,000.

Before the Covid pandemic, the service would help around 3,000 people each year, with more than four fifths of the spending going on furniture and flooring.

A group, made up of different council agencied, had been formed to undertake a review of the scheme.

The report will be discussed at Leeds City Council’s Environment Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, November 25.

Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter

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