In less than two years, amidst the pandemic and cost of living crisis, East Riding of Yorkshire Council used very little resource to deliver over 20 different benefit take up campaigns. Their focus was on building the income of over 15,700 households who were missing out on support.
Using Policy in Practice’s Low Income Family Tracker (LIFT) platform, the revenues and benefits team boosted residents’ annual income by £12.9 million and reduced arrears by over £650,000.
Challenge: Improve the financial resilience of residents and tackle arrears using limited resources
In late 2020 East Riding of Yorkshire Council had arrears worth over £6.4 million:
- Over £3.2 million relating to council tax support
- Over £2 million in council tax arrears
- Over £960,000 in housing benefit overpayments
- Over £252,000 in rent arrears
At the same time, 42% of residents were living below the poverty line.
Directed by its Financial Inclusion Strategy the council sought to increase the financial resilience of residents by targeting support to people in arrears, and encouraging the take up of unclaimed benefits, social tariffs and related support.
However, in order to put their plans into practice, they needed to generate impact without placing extra administrative strain on staff. This needed to be done whilst also managing demand for other council services and administering the government’s COVID response grants for households and businesses.
Solution: LIFT platform easily identified households in need of extra support
Councils can use Policy in Practice’s Low Income Family Tracker (LIFT) to proactively identify households who are struggling and offer them support. LIFT makes it easy to see which resident groups are best suited to different interventions, based on their household characteristics.
Offering proactive support enhances financial resilience by preventing debt and arrears. Boosting household income helps residents stay financially secure for longer, potentially reducing long term costs for the council in areas like housing and social care budgets.
The council’s revenues and benefits team used LIFT to identify 15,700 households missing out on support. Armed with this information they launched 24 separate campaigns between 2020 and 2023 to tell the families of their benefit entitlement and encourage take up.
Households were contacted by letter or email and, in some wards where benefit take up was particularly low, social media campaigns were also carried out. The council’s Your Money team also contacted people in person or over the telephone with the offer of a full benefit check and debt advice.
Benefit take up campaigns carried out include:
- Pension Credit take up campaigns (repeated six times)
- Severe Disability Premium of Housing Benefit take up campaign
- WaterSure and social tariff take up campaign
- Proactive targeting of Discretionary Housing Payments
Impact: Return on investment of £416 for each £1 spent was achieved
The 24 campaigns that delivered £12.9 million to 15,700 residents in East Riding are broken down below.
1. Pension Credit: over £4,800 gained per household, on average
Between February 2021 and July 2023 the council secured over £2.9 million for 623 households as a result of six Pension Credit take up campaigns. This consists of:
- £1,631,901 in yearly Pension Credit payments
- £560,700 in 2023 Cost of Living payments
- £404,950 in 2022 Cost of Living payments
- £358,392 in backdated Pension Credit
- £35,775 saved by 225 households now getting a free TV licence
Importantly, 12 carer households were also included in this group. Boosting carers’ income can help them to care for longer and delay or reduce adult social care costs to the council.
Our research shows that the average care package cost is £40,000 so this means that East Riding’s Pension Credit take up campaigns successfully delayed or reduced future care packages that would have otherwise cost £480,000.
The Pension Credit take up campaign was repeated six times over three years to encourage people to apply and to capture people who became newly eligible.
2. Severe Disability Premium (SDP) of Housing Benefit: over £3,600 gained per household, on average
The council identified 40 households that were missing out on Severe Disability Premium. After helping them to claim these households were awarded over £22,000 a year as well as one-off backdated amounts totalling £11,000.
3. WaterSure: £180 gained per household, on average
Around 2,300 households took up £418,000 in support for their water bills through the WaterSure scheme. East Riding’s campaign targeted nearly 8,000 eligible families and achieved an estimated 30% take up rate.
4. Proactive targeting of Discretionary Housing Payments: over £340 gained per household, on average
When the £20 uplift to Universal Credit was removed the council contacted around 140 tenants with arrears and no savings and invited them to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments. After 18 months an extra £47,500 income was secured for this group and arrears were reduced by £7,000. Crucially, none of these households have moved into temporary accommodation since the start of the campaign.
For every £1 invested the council saw a return of £416, boosting the income of residents
LIFT campaigns have put £12.9 million into the pockets of residents across East Riding of Yorkshire since 2020.
The campaigns outlined above have brought in £3.4 million each year since 2020. The 15 other campaigns carried out using LIFT generated an additional £9.5 million and included helping eligible families to secure a Warm Homes discount, Household Support Grant or Emergency Assistance.
As a result of their LIFT campaigns and follow up work East Riding calculated that, by December 2022, they had reduced arrears for residents on Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support by over £650,000. This consists of:
- £50,000 less in rent arrears
- £481,200 less in Council Tax arrears
- £121,412 less in Housing Benefit Overpayments
The use of LIFT has meant that the reach of one small team has stretched to make a large impact on residents. The platform has also helped East Riding to deliver its Financial Inclusion Strategy and its priority to ‘Protect the Vulnerable’.
Lisa Martindale, Revenues and Benefits Group Manager, said
Due to high workloads with the team and huge demand for our Your Money team, who offer FREE confidential advice to residents to maximise their incomes, we had to carefully select the cohorts to target, based on minimal impact to the teams. As such, we regularly target those groups to claim benefits such as Pension Credit or additional support through the WaterSure tariff.
It’s excellent to see the result and the impact this is making to our residents and to the council services we provide.