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London Borough of Lambeth: Streamlining access to financial support

To ensure that residents receive the right support at the right time, Lambeth Council entered into a partnership with Lightning Reach, an award-winning social impact startup, to connect people in financial hardship to a personalised range of support.


Lambeth Council, as with most other councils across the UK, have seen rising numbers of residents falling into financial hardship and struggling with costs of living. Of their 23,000 tenants, nearly a third are in arrears, with these numbers set to increase with the impacts of the cost of living crisis. While there is an array of support available to them, including the council’s various discretionary schemes, advice services and grants from other organisations, the fragmented landscape can cause residents to get lost in the menu of options and drop off in the process of filling in different forms for each provider.

A key priority for Lambeth is to ensure that residents get a holistic range of support to meet their immediate financial needs, avoid falling deeper into crisis, and build longer term resilience. To streamline the process of finding and applying for support, and ensure that residents receive the right support at the right time, Lambeth Council entered into a partnership with Lightning Reach, an award-winning social impact startup that aims to seamlessly connect people in financial hardship to a personalised range of support they need across the ecosystem of providers.

The initiative

Lightning Reach worked with Lambeth throughout their human-centred design process, which involved a cross-sector group of organisations in their Social Innovation Council (including the Royal British Legion and Association of Charitable Organisations), and 11 Lambeth residents with lived experience of financial hardship. The result was the one-stop Lightning Reach portal, which allows people to create a single profile to find and apply for a personalised range of grants and other support across multiple providers. Utilising innovative and secure technology such as open banking and ID verification to streamline the process, it’s easy to use, accessible on a mobile phone and takes just 10-15 minutes. 

Lambeth started a pilot after the portal’s beta launch in December 2021 with an email outreach campaign signposting batches of residents to the Lightning Reach portal. Within the first 4 months, they saw over 500 residents register on the portal, with over £15,000 in grants awarded to residents. With over 80 per cent of users being female, and over a third from ethnic minorities, they have also been helping the groups most affected by financial hardship within the borough. 

With positive feedback from residents who have used the portal, they are now working with Lightning Reach to expand the range of support available on the portal to residents to include the council’s own schemes and local partners. In the coming months, Lambeth’s Discretionary Housing Payments, Discretionary Council Tax Support Hardship Payments, and the Emergency Support Scheme will be available to apply to via the portal.

Beyond this, they’re also working together to onboard support provided by local partner organisations, with the aim of providing one point of entry for a holistic range of local and national support that residents can access to get on the road to financial recovery.

We’re really pleased with the early results from our pilot with Lightning Reach, and how it’s helping to transform how our residents access support. We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership and moving closer towards our shared mission to deliver a seamless, end to end support journey to help our residents get the timely support they need.”

Chris Flynn, Assistant Director of Homeownership & Rents

Resident case study

Single mum of three Millicent found herself struggling under the burden of high rent prices, rising energy bills and the soaring cost of everyday essentials. Working part-time and studying to gain further qualifications meant that her income simply couldn’t cover her expenses.

She received an email from Lambeth Council. She was initially sceptical, as many grant applications require a lot of paperwork and long phone calls. But once Millicent created a profile on the Lightning Reach Portal, she quickly found that was very straightforward. 

To her delight she received a £500 grant from a national charity, which has created some valuable breathing room, relieving a lot of the pressure that she was under:

"The portal made the whole process very straightforward. Filling out the forms was really easy and sending documents was simple, even on my iPhone. It only took about three or four working days too!"