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Tackling poverty in Big Local

Plans and progress in Windmill Hill Big Local

June 2016

By Mike Shepherd, Big Local ambassador, Windmill Hill Big Local

What is poverty? Economic hardship, poor health, low education and skills?  We believe it is all of these things, but how do you address them in a holistic way?  In Windmill Hill Big Local in Runcorn, Cheshire, this was an issue identified early on in the consultation process. 

Ideally the best way out of poverty is meaningful employment, but that is one of many interventions that need to be in place.  If employment is an issue then there is a need to address the consequences of unemployment. This help could be with doorstep lenders, benefit advice and budgeting, or support in difficult circumstances.

We have a local credit union, but barriers were identified as people could not access a loan until they had saved for thirteen weeks, or only if they have their child benefit paid into the union to cover their loan.

We have investigated several alternatives to the credit union. Some have failed to materialise, some we are still investigating. We also recognised that the impending introduction of Universal Credit to our Big Local area was a concern.

We have commissioned our local Citizen’s Advice to deliver a six month trial outreach service to address these issues. The service is giving advice on debt and budgeting and on bills for essential services such as gas and electricity and other ways for people to make the savings they can to their weekly budget.

We work closely with our partners, who are also trying to address some of these issues.  Our local social landlord already has a work club to address employment issues, so we do not want to duplicate what they are doing. Instead, we work alongside them to help improve the outcomes.

The same applies to health: we work closely with our local GP centre and representatives from our local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) to implement local interventions. Partnership working has become an essential part of delivering solutions to issues raised in our Big Local plan.

Currently we have a GP surgery in a temporary building. We helped the local council win a bid to Well North, and alongside our local CCG we are looking to help expand our local Children's Centre to become a multifunctional wellbeing centre with a GP surgery, chemist and other community facilities. Although at the consultation stage, if we can help to deliver this a huge part of our local plan will be delivered and sustainable. It’s early days, but exciting times!

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