Brent Council to continue support fund for Covid-19 impact

Millions of pounds will be made available to vulnerable people in Brent to help manage the continued pressures from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brent Council’s cabinet yesterday (Monday, March 8) approved plans to continue its ‘Resident Support Fund’ (RSF) from April 1 to aid those significantly impacted financially by the pandemic.

The fund, which will be an earmarked reserve of £3 million, will cover various payments including immediate grants, support in managing rent arrears, and interest-free borrowing to reduce any reliance on unverified sources such as loan sharks.

It can also be used to help residents gain new skills or qualifications, assist with bereavement and counselling, and pay for essential furniture or equipment.

Cllr Muhammed Butt (Lab, Tokyngton), leader of Brent Council, said the number of people in the borough claiming Universal Credit – 32,320 in August 2020 – and on furlough – 29,200 in December 2020 – showed that this decision is necessary.

Cllr Eleanor Southwood (Lab, Queens Park) agreed this is a “much-needed” scheme that will aid vulnerable people in the short-term and beyond.

“It’s about how do we make this sustainable to support residents in financial difficulty, something which can happen to anybody,” she said.

The RSF initially formed part of the council’s Covid-19 Hardship Grant, which was awarded to local authorities by the Government to help manage the impact of the virus outbreak.

A report presented to the council’s cabinet showed £2.6 million of this funding had to be spent on residents by the end of March – it is anticipated this will be achieved.

Councillors agreed to continue the RSF, which will replace the ‘Local Welfare Assistance’ scheme, a programme supporting “residents experiencing short-term emergency financial hardship or unexpected expenditure” that had been running since April 2013.

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