With coronavirus (Covid-19) putting a strain on people’s health and finances, we have given more than £200,000 in direct grants to support our most vulnerable customers.
The investment means we have supplied grants to one in every 40 LiveWest households.
The total amount provided between the first lockdown and the current day is 10-times more than we provided last year under our crisis grants programme.
We are forecasting that we will have given out another £200,000 by the end of March 2021.
Our Grants Manager, Tim Wotton, said: “Covid-19 means many more of our customers are really struggling as a result of changes to their income, employment or as a result of increased living costs.
“Through a combined approach, including our Tenancy Sustainment team, working with community organisations and other partners and agencies, we are able to help customers ensure they are accessing longer term support.
“Where other funding or support isn’t available, our Crisis and Hardship grants can provide a small amount of help at times of crisis to help cover specific emergency costs.
“It’s concerning that we are seeing 10 times the number of people asking for support we would in a normal year, but fantastic that LiveWest has stepped up to the plate to support customers and their feedback shows just how much they appreciate it.
“We’ve had families explaining how our support has helped them be able to feed their family, turn the heating on again in the cold winter months, or to provide basic furniture or goods that so many people take for granted.”
The grants are designed to support our customers who are facing genuine financial hardship and struggling with specific costs.
This could be family costs resulting from children being at home, increasing costs to access good, failure of major white goods or hardship as a result of a direct loss in income.
Tim Wotton explained: “We aren’t here to make up a shortfall, but we can provide one off help where all other options have been exhausted.”
We have conducted research on customers who received a grant in the first six months since lockdown.
All customers have to go through an income and expenditure assessment to ensure we are able to target support at those in greatest need and also identify other support in the local community.
The research found that 89% of customers found the grants process as fairly or very easy, while 96% were very or fairly satisfied with communication.
Over a third of those who received a grant have recommended our crisis and hardship grants to other people.
One LiveWest customer said: “LiveWest literally fed my daughter after I lost my job due to Covid-19 and was awaiting a Universal Credit payment.
“Without it we would have starved. Thank you so much LiveWest, your generosity was a welcome relief and a lifeline at a time which was traumatic to say the least. Covid-19 took us all by surprise.”
Another customer commented: “The grant has made such a huge difference as I have been struggling financially since losing my full-time job due to Covid-19.
“It has meant I can order food and also have help with my gas and electric and all these are things I've worried about.
“The difference is that I have been able to not worry so much and the grant has eased the burden financially and I'm so appreciative of this being available as it's truly been a lifeline. Thank you LiveWest.”
Another added: “The grant for a laptop enabled me to continue my business through lockdown. I was then able to pay my rent and bills.”
As well as issuing more than £200,000 in crisis and hardship grants, we have launched a new £100,000 grants programme to support digital projects and community spaces across the South West.
The money will go to community groups and organisations who support its residents with digital initiatives and enhancing community spaces.
Tim Wotton added: “We recognise the importance of our customers being able to get online and access digital services.
“We believe that not only is digital access essential in managing day to day living in the modern world, but also digital access can bring benefits in terms of social isolation, managing households, benefits and budgeting, and as a tool to support social inclusion and health and wellbeing.
“We work in partnership with a wide range of community organisations to maintain or develop new viable community spaces.
“Many existing community spaces have been hit hard by coronavirus and are now reconfiguring and changing what they do, and how they deliver services.
“The aim of our finding is to support sustainable community spaces that will benefit LiveWest residents and the broader community.”