Innovative solution getting cash to hardship grant beneficiaries
By Gareth Evans, Director, GRE Consulting
The pandemic has focused attention on the importance of local safety-nets in providing crisis grants for struggling households. Many councils have redesigned or reinstated their Local Welfare Assistance schemes to give emergency support for food, fuel and other essential household goods and items.
The recent GMPA report, which examines such schemes across the region, backs the growing calls for a cash-first approach to these hardship grants. It is shown to maximise dignity, autonomy, choice and ultimately impact, compared to the provision of food parcels or vouchers.
A new payment solution, Cash Perks is helping Councils, housing associations and local/national charities overcome the challenges of cash disbursement to those in financial difficulties – especially where clients might not have bank accounts but more commonly are overdrawn.
Gareth Evans, a leading researcher and anti-poverty campaigner who launched Cash Perks explains: “The idea came about when we were helping design an emergency food and fuel scheme for one of the country’s largest housing associations. We recognised the limitations of other payment options to get cash immediately to those that need it, so went out and created a solution.”
The technology enables organisations to securely send payments between £10 and £500 to their beneficiaries by SMS text message. Recipients can instantly collect their allocated funds 24/7 at over 17,000 ATMs nationally – all without the need for a card or bank account.
One local authority that has already embraced the facility is London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, which originally piloted it to send hardship payments for those without bank accounts. But following its success, the Council has just used it to disburse almost £250,000 of its Covid Winter Grant Scheme allocation in individual payments to its approved households. “It’s really straight forward and it’s a fast, efficient, flexible system that supports us to implement frequently announced new government initiatives,” explains Donna Radley, Head of Benefits. The Council’s Children’s Services directorate has now adopted it to replace the myriad of petty-cash payments that it makes to clients.
Anthony, one of the recipients of the Councils support explained the difference the emergency cash payments had made, “This has literally saved my life. I have had such a bad couple of years and this went some way to helping me eat properly and getting myself back to myself after the death of my son in 2019 and losing my job and then lockdown. I can’t thank you enough.”
With no setup costs or monthly charges, just a fixed fee per transaction based on the amount sent and usage volumes, it enables organisations of all sizes to access the innovative technology.
Wimbledon Guild, a small benevolent charity that operates in South London has used Cash Perks to continue offering its small emergency grants throughout Covid despite its offices being closed. Vanessa Robins, the charity’s Welfare Manager says, “It is a fast and convenient way to get cash urgently out to clients at little cost to the charity, especially for those without access to a bank account or who have overdrafts where transferred cash would be swallowed up. It reduces admin time and fewer staff need to be involved in the transactions, although there is a strong audit trail.”
Find out more here.