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Council Discretionary Grants teams and homelessness in Coventry

Council Discretionary Grants teams and homelessness in Coventry

Council Discretionary Grants teams and homelessness in Coventry

Thursday, September 1, 2022

This is a guest blog written by Zoë Titchener, Coventry Frontline Network Co-ordinator

I recently saw a report from Coventry City Council’s Discretionary Grants team, showing the grant applications they had processed over the last year. The team administers Discretionary Housing Payments; this helps people with housing costs including arrears, rent in advance, removal and storage costs while in Temporary Accommodation (TA). They also administer the Community Support Grant: a local welfare scheme providing household goods such as beds, cookers, fridges and which is mainly used to support people starting a new tenancy after living in TA.

Seeing the grant categories listed together really highlighted how closely this work related to homelessness. Despite these evident links, I didn’t have much contact with the Grants team – and as the co-ordinator of the Coventry Frontline Network aiming to support people working on the frontline of homelessness, I wanted to put that right!

I contacted the Grants team and met with the team manager to talk about how we could connect through our networks. The Grants team joined the Coventry Frontline Network mailing list, connecting them with our resources, events and training, and with meetings including the local Homelessness Forum.

The team were looking for input about their grant application forms, and I offered to invite feedback from our local network; to gather views from frontline staff with experience of helping people with the forms.

The team manager confirmed they had given overviews of their processes to some agencies in Coventry, and agreed to set up a session with our Coventry Frontline Network members. We had really good sign-up and attendance from a wide range of local agencies for the event, showing how relevant the topic was to frontline homelessness workers.

The session provided an overview of grant processes, along with contact details and escalation routes, giving staff a way to raise issues or progress urgent requests. This information was also shared with the wider Coventry Frontline Network, reaching over 250 people.

This session immediately increased contact between the Grants team and the local sector. The Grants team confirmed they have since been contacted by various agencies asking for further sessions. One agency was Coventry Citizens Advice (CA) where the Coventry Frontline Network is based. As well as setting up a dedicated overview session for its advisers, Coventry CA has worked with the Grants team to improve the grants process and application forms, and now has regular liaison meetings in the diary to build on this work.

Are you connected with your council grants team?

In many areas the connection between councils’ discretionary grants teams and homelessness teams might already be established, but we wanted to highlight these links and suggest involving grants teams in homelessness work and inviting them to any networks, forums or meetings. As well as developing contacts and escalation routes to support people making applications and accessing support, you might find that council grants teams have useful data about rent arrears or move-on costs; and in return, local agencies might have insight that could help reduce rejection rates to reduce duplication.

Depending upon your Local Authority, the Grants team may also be involved with the administration of the Household Support Fund, a key response to the cost of living crisis.

We wanted to highlight these sources of help for people who may be facing additional costs of homelessness, as well as the rising cost of living, to help frontline workers make best use of this provision.

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