Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Council: Helping older people access support

Recognising that online applications and attitudes to claiming financial support were low amongst older residents, the Council ran a multi-channel campaign to invite them to a drop-in benefits session at the council offices and assist them in claiming vital cost of living support.


About the initiative

In Early September 2022 Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Councils had allocated all of its Household Support Fund (HSF), except for the approximately 33.3 per cent ring-fenced for households with someone of pension age, which represented a significant underspend. This is not unique to the HSF – the councils had also seen a trend in older people not claiming the financial support for which they are eligible, including Pension Credit and Energy Rebates. Our objective was to encourage greater uptake of scheme before it closed on 30 September 2022, as well as other forms of ongoing support available for elder people on a low-income. 

Recognising that online applications and attitudes to claiming support were a barrier amongst this cohort, a low-cost and high impact communications campaign was implemented taking in local radio, press, direct mail, community noticeboards and engagement with local retirement schemes, to invite older people to a drop-in benefits session at the council offices. This was backed up by communications through online channels such as web, social media and email, encouraging all residents to encourage older friends and family to attend the drop-in and apply with support.  

The drop-in day, which proved extremely popular, was organised and delivered by the councils’ Income Maximisation and Welfare team with support on the day from the Customer Contact Team and Lead Cabinet Member for Direct Assistance Services. 

Over the course of the day over 220 eligible residents were supported to claim vital cost of living support and these customers are now better placed to claim for future support.  

Due to the recent passing of the Her Majesty The Queen, Elizabeth II, the councils promoted the opportunity for attendees to sign the local book of condolence as part of their visit, providing further motivation for customers who might otherwise have been reticent to come to the session. 

The initiative was made possible as a result of quick, strong collaborative working amongst multiple council teams, including Maximisation and Welfare, Customer Contact, Facilities, Communications, with supportive input from senior elected members. 

The councils have since launched two Cost of Living Crisis Support Funds, for which the voluntary and community sector can bid for grants to deliver a wide range of support in this area. We have also launched a Warm Spaces fund and will be compiling a directory of support as well as offering grants for these premises to deliver support. 

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