The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced a nearly £3m funding boost to extend and increase advice and support services across the capital that are helping Londoners struggling with the rising cost of living.
The Mayor is extending access to free legal, financial and employment advice and support services after his initial support of £3m helped thousands of low-income Londoners secure a total of £9.6m in financial support that they otherwise would not have claimed.
The funding will help secure millions more for thousands more Londoners as they try to cope with the cost of living crisis. It comes as YouGov polling shows that 32 per cent of Londoners are ‘just about managing’ and 21 per cent are ‘financially struggling’.
The new funding includes £2.5m to continue work with networks of law centres run by London Citizens Advice and the London Legal Support Trust for the next year.
As a result of Sadiq’s investment last year, London Citizens Advice increased the number of advisers across its 28 London Citizens Advice offices and expanded support to community organisations helping those in need; while the London Legal Support Trust (LLST) increased capacity across its network of Centres of Excellence by recruiting and training more specialist advisers in areas of high demand.
More than £450,000 will be used to extend advice services in community settings across London for a further six months. This allows Londoners – particularly those who are less likely to access advice – to learn about their rights and entitlements at a range of locations they already attend, including community centres, foodbanks, schools, refugee centres, and baby banks.
Over half the Londoners who were supported by the programme during the past year had never accessed advice before, and were far more likely to be female and/or from a Black background. Over a third had a disability or long-term health condition, and just under half spoke a first language other than English.
This intervention is the latest step the Mayor is taking to help Londoners most in need. This includes a campaign launched in February to ensure older Londoners do not miss out on receiving all of the Pension Credit they are entitled to. More than 8,200 older households were targeted, resulting in 2,165 successful claims from eligible Londoners, amounting to just under £8.4 million (£8,398,429) in direct additional annual income – an average of £3,879 per claim.
Following the success of this initial phase, the Mayor has announced that he is expanding the campaign this autumn to include up to 23 boroughs. It is estimated that these boroughs will contact a total of over 10,000 households, with up to £9 million in Pension Credit likely to be claimed.
Further interventions include investing £3.46bn into building the genuinely affordable homes Londoners need, £400m on skills and employment programmes to support Londoners to find more secure work, more than £80m to help those struggling with the rising cost of living to tackle fuel poverty, £135m to provide free school meals to hundreds of thousands of London families this year, and more than £3.5m to help provide around 10m free meals during school holidays and at weekends.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I am committed to helping Londoners struggling with the cost of living, and I am pleased that we have helped to secure millions in financial support for Londoners in need as a result of my investment last year. This new funding will ensure many thousands more people will be made aware of their entitlements and will be able to claim the full range of financial support they are entitled to. As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, it is more important than ever that Londoners are able to access free and impartial advice, and by working in partnership with organisations across the capital, we can build a fairer, more equitable city for all.”
Chair of London Citizens Advice Steering Group and CEO of Citizens Advice Lewisham, Fiona Derbyshire, said : “The funding provided by the GLA makes all the difference as it gives us the extra capacity to take advice services into the community. We cannot meet all the demand for help that the Cost of Living crisis has generated, but working with community partners enables our services to extend support to those who need it the most. We’re most grateful for the Mayor’s continued investment in London’s fragile advice sector.”
CEO of London Legal Support Trust, Nezahat Cihan, said: “The effect of the cost-of-living crisis has deepened already existing inequalities within our society. The need for free legal advice is more significant than ever, and the free legal advice agencies we support work tirelessly to help the most vulnerable access justice. We are delighted by the Mayor’s Office’s decision to continue investing in our cost-of-living project to enable our advice agencies to help more people access their rights and entitlements. Access to justice is a right, not a privilege. Thanks to the Mayor’s Office, thousands of people can get the vital advice they need.”