Adur and Worthing's Councils’ Proactive project offers sustainable solution to rising cost of living

Residents in Adur and Worthing that are struggling with the rising cost of living and are at risk of falling into food insecurity are being offered long-term solutions thanks to the Councils’ Proactive project - which is designed to identify those most in need.

According to Adur & Worthing Community Food Network, a community of groups that work together to coordinate food provision and support, around 3,500 people in the district are being supported with 10,000 food parcels and 1,600 pre-prepared meals each quarter.

The Councils have been working in partnership with local food groups and Adur & Worthing Community Food Network since the first national lockdown to share information and provide significant emergency resources, such as financial support, space for food, volunteering hours and an emergency food hub.

Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Sean McDonald, said:

“We recognise that our approach needs to be more than alleviating the immediate need for food, but should also enable more early intervention work to connect people to the wider support and advice available. This includes help with money, housing, benefits entitlement, and access to employment.

“The Councils have directed £195,000 of the Contain Outbreak Management Fund directly to food groups to address both food need and these broader issues. We have also mobilised resources to ensure early help and prevention work is provided through the Proactive project, employment coaches, money advice, temporary housing, and street outreach.

“We are keen to work on a longer-term approach with food partners to tackle the ongoing drivers of food need and insecurity and support more sustainable food supply issues that help share food resources and tackle food waste.”

Cllr Kevin Boram, Adur Executive Member for Health & Wellbeing, said:

“Food poverty is an indicator of need and there has been some excellent work from the Councils’ Proactive project that has looked into the data of who is most at risk and how we can provide support before people get into more difficult issues. This support has come in the form of employment coaches, money advice, temporary housing and street outreach. The Councils are also working on a broader scale in key areas affecting how well our communities can thrive, such as educational skills, employment opportunities and the wider economy.”

In July 2021 Adur & Worthing Councils launched Proactive, a trial project staffed by officers from across disciplines to help people struggling on low incomes.

The project forms part of the work that Adur & Worthing Councils is doing to help alleviate food insecurity. So far, more than 150 residents that were identified as ‘not coping’ on a comprehensive computer database have been offered support.

Using information on those claiming benefits administered by the Councils, including housing benefit and council tax support, and applying a score to each, officers were able to place residents into two categories. These were ‘coping’ and ‘not coping’, the latter being further divided into three sub-categories; ‘struggling’, ‘at risk’ and ‘in crisis’.

The trial was extended in January to include a number of people in different categories, including private accomodation renters in arrears, carers categorised as ‘at risk’ and ‘struggling’ single parents. People identified in these groups are then called and offered support by Councils’ officers.

Some residents have been able to claim benefits worth hundreds of pounds they did not know they qualified for. In other cases residents’ wellbeing improved after being referred to mental health services or signposted to local food groups.

Cllr Heather Mercer, Worthing’s Executive Member for Customer Services, said:

“The Proactive project has used the latest computer technology to identify hundreds of people in Adur and Worthing that are in need of extra help.

“Food insecurity is a symptom of a bigger problem and through joint working the Proactive project has given people the tools to overcome some of these wider issues. Although the project is still in the trial stage, we hope to be able to help a wider group of people going forward.”

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