A partnership of charities brought together by Voluntary Action Westminster is celebrating a successful bid to the Big Lottery Fund for £180,000 to provide advice and support to households hardest hit by recent changes to housing benefit.
The Westminster Resettlement Project, as it’s called, will provide support to families who are at risk of homelessness as a result of the changes, by giving practical help, advice and information. Much of the practical help will be provided by local volunteers, with special training and support. Volunteers will help people find new more affordable accommodation, new schools for their children and local support agencies in the areas that they move to.
A report by Westminster City Council has estimated that as many as 5,000 local households will see their income slashed following a new cap on housing benefits, forcing many to look for new accommodation in cheaper neighbouring boroughs. The caps mean that on average, a family renting a three bedroom flat will lose £262 a week.
The partnership was first brought together by Voluntary Action Westminster who held an open meeting in August 2011 for organisations interested in working to reduce the impact of the proposed Housing Benefit changes. In the following months, VAW continued to support the emerging partnership of four organisations – Westminster Citizens Advice Bureau, Advocacy Plus, Home Start Westminster and Zaccheus 2000 Trust.
The Westminster Resettlement Project will be launched in April 2013, under the lead of Westminster Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Carole Sturdy, Support Officer at Voluntary Action Westminster said: “We are delighted that this bid has been successful, after so many months of hard work from all the partners. What kept everyone going and focused on the task, was an awareness of the huge potential need in Westminster, a strong vision of what they wanted to achieve, a deep respect for each other’s work and a commitment to the project. It was that commitment, combined with advice and support from the Lottery itself, that eventually won through.”
Bernard Collier, Chief Executive of Voluntary Action Westminster said: “The government’s changes to benefits are having a massive impact on people in Westminster, and we knew that we had to help. We didn’t have all the answers, but knew the voluntary sector would. So we brought local voluntary groups together to find a solution – that’s part of our role as the council for voluntary services in Westminster. The sector worked hard to create a solution, and with support from the lottery the project can help people resettle in other areas.”
Westminster residents in rented accommodation who are concerned about the impact of housing benefit changes should contact Westminster Housing Options on 020 7641 1000 for guidance.