How councils can support low-income households amidst the cost of living crisis

BetterOff - cost of living crisis

What’s the cost of living crisis? With inflation at a 30-year high and spiralling costs for rent, energy and food bills, the pressures on household finances have never been so tough. Many remain concerned that the government’s council tax rebate scheme designed to help with the cost of energy bills will not help those most in need.

The economic and health impacts of Covid-19 have landed especially heavily on people who were already struggling before the pandemic hit. Amy Harhoff, Solace’s deputy spokesperson for economic prosperity, describes this as “fundamentally a crisis that we may face long-term, and one that requires a local and national response.” (Local Government Chronicle)

There are enormous numbers of people who are not claiming the benefit and support that they are entitled to. 

  • Only 61% of pensioners eligible for Pension Credit take it up, leaving 450,000 in poverty (via Independent Age)
  • Over a million households entitled to housing benefit don’t receive it  – up to £1.1 billion of available Housing Benefit (for pensioners) went unclaimed in 2020 (via DWP Official Statistics)
  • 25% of households eligible for Universal Credit do not claim it, leaving an estimated £7.5 billion in unclaimed Universal Credit (via EntitledTo)

Local authorities can make a real difference to those people whose lives are being made even harder by the rising cost of living. It is a pertinent time for local authorities to be focusing on income maximisation in order to support people to get the help they are entitled to.

BetterOff is an easy-to-use self-serve digital welfare & employment platform, providing citizens with guidance and support to ensure that they are claiming what they are entitled to. Combining national and locally administered forms with comprehensive advice and support, users can easily identify how they can maximise their income. Importantly, they are also able to measure the impact of this on their local economy.

BetterOff was developed alongside experts from Kirklees Council, whose initial interest in the development was triggered by the impacts of austerity on their budgets to provide welfare support and advice. 

On average, BetterOff has provided Kirklees Council approximately £2.1 million per month in monetary gain by providing citizens with the means to apply for the benefits they’re entitled to. This has supported citizens out of poverty as well as widened their opportunities by providing a smart DWP-approved job search and journal feature to support claimants re-entering work.

The platform helps to boost living standards, lift the burden of poverty and create resilience to future financial shocks – all without adding extra pressure to staff workloads.

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