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£30 million to help people take back control of their lives
The 59 projects across England will work with more than 35,000 people to tackle the underlying causes of their crisis through advice on issues such as employment, homelessness, debt, and health problems. By putting the person at the heart of the solution, offering tailored support and access to a range of networks and services that can build on their strengths, they will gain the confidence needed to take control of their own lives and plan for a better future. The projects will initially provide immediate support to tackle the crisis such as food parcels or a bed for the night before working to address underlying issues.
The funded projects, which include collaborations between local organisations, are aimed at people who find it difficult to access support because they are disabled, have a mental health issue, live in an isolated rural community, are homeless or at risk of losing their home. Projects include training for ‘community champions’ to provide services in their local area, GPs working with partner agencies to refer people for advocacy and advice, and specialist legal experts working with disabled people experiencing hardship.
Big Lottery Fund England Chair, Nat Sloane said: “Our projects will not just provide hands-on support, advice and advocacy to address the immediate crisis, but more importantly will help people overcome and work through the underlying causes of their hardship and put them in a better position to improve their circumstances. Successes and lessons learnt will be shared so other organisations can build on the outcomes and replicate and develop further projects.”
Case study: Emily (not her real name), 45, from Leeds whilst studying for an MA had to deal with financial struggles, then multiple health problems including a bilateral pulmonary embolism and family bereavement. Having received vital support when she hit a crisis point she’s now back in control and studying again. She explains:
“After a degree I then studied an MA in Counselling Studies at the University of Manchester, which I had to fund from a private Career Development Loan. But after I had signed up for the course and university housing, the bank reneged on the loan. I undertook a number of part time jobs but struggled to make ends meet and left the course after a year.
“The stress of all the demands for the fees, accommodation costs took its toll on my health. The added stress made another long-standing illness severe and I began suffering from panic attacks. This had severe impact on ability to meet essential living expenses.
“My sister sadly passed away in February 2015. I was working and struggling with the loss, but I could no longer continue the job I had. In August 2015 I suffered from a bilateral pulmonary embolism and am now on long-term disability. I also finally had a diagnosis of another illness and was in and out of hospital having operations.
“I was unable to work and my debts and the demands for payment had become unmanageable. I decided that obtaining professional help would be the best start to getting my life back on track. I approached Better Leeds Communities, who gave me good advice, support and hope. They helped me to be proactive and worked with me to produce a clearer picture of how to manage my debts which led to me applying for and being awarded a debt relief order. This means I will be able to start again with a clean slate. Receiving support from Better Leeds Communities was essential to my life.
“I’m now undertaking a proof-reading and editing course, which means – health permitting – I will be able to work from home on a more flexible basis and I am more positive about my future.”
The YOU Trust receives £499,997 and will set up a new project to support Portsmouth residents who are in hardship crisis due to a wide variety of causes, including debt, unemployment, low pay, relationship breakdown, domestic abuse, homelessness and disability. Immediate support will include clothes, nappies, and utility top-ups. A Circle of Support worker will work with beneficiaries to their strengths, skills and the root cause of the current issues and bring together local agencies to provide longer term personalised support.