Lifting people up and out or poverty: Advocacy Manager Debbie Canning on our advice work
We all know how busy the satellites have been and how many people are currently needing emergency food. The advocacy team has been trying to see as many of those foodbank clients as possible, to try and reduce their need to use the foodbank and hopefully bring our numbers down.
Our job is income maximisation, which basically means putting more money in people’s pockets and making sure they have everything they are entitled to and can therefore afford the essentials.
Our advocacy team has grown over the years and we now have a dedicated team of paid staff and volunteers working to claim additional welfare benefits and reduce the crippling debt repayments some people face.
I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect upon 2022, provide a snapshot of our work and explain how we have helped our foodbank clients in what has been a very challenging year.
Council tax causes a lot of issues for people visiting us. Many people are unaware they are able to claim council tax reduction, which can significantly reduce this essential bill for those on the lowest incomes. Our advocates have been making our clients aware of this and applying on their behalf. We have supported 62 clients to claim this but only know the outcomes for 21 people as of today’s date. However, we only make a claim for those who we know are entitled to council tax reduction, so we are confident this will have helped boost incomes. The average amount gained per client with a successful application for council tax reduction is approximately £1,000 per year.
Last year we also worked hard to speak to as many pensioners as possible about claiming Pension Credit. We know older people are sometimes reluctant to ask for help, but we were able to claim a total of £15,621 last year for our clients and we hope this will ease the financial strain.
Another large part of our work is helping people to claim Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and in 2022 we secured awards for 57 people. This amounts to £386,503 for our clients who are all living with health conditions.
It is widely reported there is £15 billion worth of unclaimed benefits in the UK and in 2022, as a whole, our local foodbank advocacy team claimed £778,456.90 back for its clients living in Eastbourne.
But this doesn’t include the debt we have been able to write off for our clients and last year £223,540 was written off for 16 clients.
This brings the financial awards total for 2022 to £1,001,998. This means in 2022, our advocates put more than 1 million pounds back in the pockets of our clients to help reduce their need to use a foodbank.
I would like to thank everyone who has made this possible, including all the volunteers working in the satellites for the conversations you are having with people and for your help in identifying those clients who may benefit from our help and sending them our way.
Of course, we all anticipate 2023 will continue to be busy, but as a team, we will work together on the frontline of this cost of living crisis to provide emergency food and help lift people up and out of poverty.