The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has responded proactively to the rising cost of living by leading an impactful campaign with community partners, highlighting the support that can help those struggling to cope to hopefully avoid the need for crisis support.
In April 2022, the council identified early on the requirement for a concerted area-based approach to cost of living support and an associated communications campaign, bringing together the new and existing support available locally and nationally: from the council, Government and community partners.
While the council is overall a relatively prosperous place, there are households on low incomes and in fuel poverty, who are most vulnerable to extra cost pressures, especially around food and fuel, and the numbers struggling are likely to increase into autumn and winter 2022. These are the people they needed to reach through a timely campaign, to help avoid the need for crisis support.
The council's Strategy Service and Communications Service were tasked with bringing together internal departments and external partners, collating and communicating the support in an accessible way to reach the people in need in a timely manner. Access to earlier support and prevention would sit at the heart of the campaign, which they agreed to prioritise for a quick and swift launch in early May 2022.
This project took a multi-service approach, involving revenues, benefits, libraries, customer services, housing, environmental health, trading standards, public health, children’s services, adult social care, housing, strategy and communications.
Three overarching project objectives were identified:
- mitigate the impact of the rising cost of living for residents
- build financial resilience of residents, helping them to weather cost of living increases
- prevent residents reaching the point of crisis.
Campaign objectives flowed from the overarching project objectives:
- raise awareness of cost of living support for residents
- emphasise if residents are struggling, they should not wait, they should act now by getting in touch with their landlord, or energy supplier, and/or seeking support from the council, Government and/or community partners
- collate and make help more accessible
- strengthen ties between the council and community partners to target residents with appropriate messages.
The idea, research and planning
At the time of planning, the Government was grappling with how to address the challenge and had announced the council tax energy rebate and the next tranche of Household Support Fund.
While cost of living was high on media and political agendas, and many councils had communicated around individual schemes, the council could not find any councils at the time that had delivered concerted campaigns bringing together support on an area basis.
To identify campaign audiences, the council undertook its own research paper, looking at the cause, effects and people most likely to be affected:
- those already on low incomes/benefits: 5-10 per cent of the borough’s population and older people in low income households
- poorer households in less energy efficient homes, those in fuel poverty, or on the edge of fuel poverty: 6.1 per cent of borough’s households
- those who are ‘just about managing’.
Some of those residents might have complex needs, be hard to reach, or need help with their finances for the first time – therefore unaware of what support is available or how to access it. Audiences extended to internal and external stakeholders who could help promote to struggling residents, including:
- Key community partners - Foodshares, Driven Forward, The Baby Bank, The Spoore, Merry and Rixman Foundation, and Citizens Advice
- Landlord associations
- Social landlords – Abri and Housing Solutions
- Frontline services
- Delivery partners
- All councillors
- Council staff
- Parish councils
- Local media
Strategy, creativity and innovation
There were a number of communications considerations in shaping a successful campaign:
- gain support across the council (and political spectrum) and community partners – advise councillors, relevant staff and partners first through a launch e-shot, with clear calls to action and helpful key messaging (see below) all partners could “own” so they’re involved constructively
- target those in need – involve frontline services and community partners working directly with those who might be struggling, supported by clear and helpful messaging (see below)
- collate support in a structured fashion – set up a dedicated webpage signposting to support in eight distinct themes (see below) and summary flyer to avoid people being overwhelmed or confused by volume of material
- be accessible to a non-digital audience – produce a poster and flyer to complement the website and promote alternative options for people to phone for support or visit the public access computers in the library
- be low or zero budget – harness partner channels, and make the poster and flyer available for partners to download and print when needed
- avoid stigma that might be attached to seeking help – make the messaging and campaign name helpful and non-judgemental
- be agile – launch quickly but ensure the campaign is ongoing and capable of being updated
- ensure printed materials are ‘long-life’.
While the campaign launch would entail some broad-spectrum communications – release and e-newsletters – the council understood early on that involving partners would be crucial to effectively targeting those in need.
They held meetings with key community partners to find out what support they could add to the website and understand how they could use their channels to target those in need. For example, Housing Solutions offered to display posters on estate noticeboards, send a dedicated e-shot to tenants and give posters to their home operatives to hand to anyone who raised cost of living concerns during maintenance visits.
The campaign name “Here to Help” and strapline “Helping you with the cost of living” sought an approachable and non-judgemental tone in encouraging people to seek help as soon as possible. This was reflected in core messaging across materials.
The name choice and “help” messaging enabled the campaign to land well and encourage a range of stakeholders to get involved, avoiding misperceptions it was a political stunt or tokenistic. Partner buy-in was also achieved through calls to action in the launch e-shot, as follows:
- direct those in need within your communities to our dedicated webpage, or give them our leaflet
- share our campaign posts– #HereToHelpRBWM
- if you’re responsible for public-facing buildings, or public noticeboards, download and display our poster
- if you’re a partner organisation that can help residents with cost of living, and would like your support to be added to our webpage, please email.
- Entitlement to national benefits
- Council Tax
- Food and daily essentials
- Managing debt
- Childcare and school meals
- Managing stress
Delivery/implementation of tactics
- Central webpage: www.rbwm.gov.uk/here-to-help
- Launch e-shot for key stakeholders (as above)
- Press release
- Double-sided A5 ‘long-life’ flyer
- Articles in the regular e-newsletters for residents, councillors and staff
- Social media campaign – used over first fortnight and repeated/updated on an ongoing basis
No increase in demand for crisis support, such as temporary housing.
- Several key partners used campaign materials, including:
- Housing Solutions – dedicated e-shot, posters & flyers.
- Abri – piece in newsletter, posters & flyers.
- Wraysbury & Horton Care Hub – posters & flyers.
- Elizabeth House – posters & flyers.
- NHS Frimley – posters & flyers.
- Wam Get Involved - posters
- Page two coverage in Maidenhead Advertiser and coverage on Radio Berkshire.
- Cross party-support from councillors.
- Positive feedback from senior councillors and officers.