Support in York

There is a long-standing and continuing tradition in York of the whole community supporting families affected by poverty.

A full summary of work being undertaken can be downloaded. This is regularly updated. 

Key recent developments include:

Living Wage

The Living Wage is locally calculated to reflect the costs of living in that area. It aims to provide a wage which ensures that recipients can have a certain quality of life.

In York, a Living Wage city campaign was approved in July 2013 as part of CYC’s anti-poverty programme and was launched on 4th November 2013 at the start of Living Wage week. A Living Wage city coalition has been formed with other Living Wage employers in the city (CYC, JRF, Aviva, York CAB, York CVS and supported by York St John).  The City of York Council started paying the Living Wage to 573 staff (17% of the workforce) from April 2013 and became a fully accredited Living Wage employer in November 2013.

Childcare Sufficiency Assessment

York Family Information Service (FIS) launched the Childcare Sufficiency Assessment (CSA) in October 2013. From the CSA, York FIS is able to find out the opinions of parents and carers on childcare in York in order to improve the childcare provision in York. Improving childcare provision can enable parents and carers to seek employment, increase working hours and access education and training.

As of 31st January 2014, the CSA was closed having received 618 responses. Outcome and feedback from the assessment are in preparation and an official write up is due in April 2014.

The CSA has been used to target a childminder recruitment campaign in key areas across York. Key areas include Westfield, Tang Hall, Micklegate, Southbank and the City Centre.  The campaign has resulted in 11 new childminders starting in the key areas.

Two Year Old Early Education

From September 2013, the City of York Council has been offering some two year olds free childcare places for up to 15 hours – if they fit the eligibility criteria. During the Autumn Term 2013, York has approved 307 eligible two year olds for an early education place with a childminder, nursery or playgroup. York is well ahead of the national target of 80% for the first term of delivery of the new policy as we have actually reached 100% of families.

Two year old funding offers the opportunity for many parents to begin the journey back into the labour market. Parents and carers can think about taking up work/training or increase their working hours whilst at the same time their two year old gains access to a high quality early education experience. 

Children’s Centres are valuable for the effective promotion of the two year old early education funding. Centres are well placed to work with particular communities and undertake targeted outreach to ensure all families who are entitled to the funding access it. Children’s Centres arrange visits to childcare providers and have drop-in sessions for parents in different venues to support parents through the application process and encourage parental partnership with settings through home visits. Children’s Centres provide those families who access the funding with:

  • Support into volunteering, training or work
  • Early Help/CAF for those who are most vulnerable.

Intervention through Children’s Centres

York Children’s Centres support families on the lowest incomes, as well as ameliorating some of the immediate symptoms of poverty. Children’s Centres are located in areas of deprivation so they are easily accessible to people most in need.

Children’s Centres help alleviate symptoms of poverty by: linking parents to employment information and support, providing training and volunteering opportunities and supporting parents to access local childcare for the free early education places. Children’s Centres give a range of practical support and advice to low income parents including debt advice, money saving tips, cooking from scratch, benefit support, provision of free activities and jobs and training. Children’s Centres also signpost parents to organisations, professionals and activities/groups which can help if the family are in need of advice and support.  York Children’s Centres are developing as hub of the communities where families can drop in to access CAB, housing and employment advice as well as information on loan sharks and food banks.

Family Intervention Programmes    

Families where there is persistent poverty can access support though intensive Family Intervention Programmes.

The European Social Fund (ESF)/Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Supporting Families with Multiple Problems programme has now worked with 276 families, achieving 156 progress measures (qualifications, work experience, volunteering) and 24 job starts. The City of York Council is currently the top performing sub contractor in the region.

The Integrated Family Service (IFS) works with vulnerable families where there are multiple & complex needs, including families who meet the government’s Troubled Families criteria. Many of the families IFS work with have been supported to access food banks, apply for charity funding for essential household items and clothing, to improve their household budgeting skills and ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to. Intensive interventions focus on issues which are barriers to adults not being in work, including substance misuse, mental health and domestic violence issues. There is also close working with CYC Housing and Registered Social Landlords to support clients in meeting the conditions of their tenancy and to manage rent arrears. Parents are also being supported to improve parenting skills ensuring children and young people receive the support they need to make the best of their education, develop good life skills and aspirations of their own.

Fuel Poverty

Fuel poverty is when a household cannot afford to keep their house reasonably warm, due to their income. In order to tackle fuel poverty, energy switching has been promoted through the York Energy Partnership to reduce the cost of energy and to help residents to achieve a better deal on their energy costs. The City of York Council has undertaken outreach to residents and landlords in order to improve the energy efficiency of York homes. There has also been provision of free training sessions around energy efficiency and fuel debt to carer organisations and organisations that work with families who have young children. This course is aimed at householders and those supporting them and covers:

  • Energy Advice
  • Reading meters and understanding energy bills
  • Identifying and rectifying fuel bill errors
  • Contacting the fuel supplier
  • Assistance available such as ECO, PSR, Warm Homes Discount

A fuel efficiency advisor is now working in CES on a one year fixed term contract to coordinate fuel-poverty related activity.  Tailored interventions are planned for certain areas of York, with specific measures and messages relevant to their particular property type.  In addition, residents more generally will be encouraged to save money via a marketing campaign to encourage behavioural change and energy switching. Alleviating fuel poverty enables many households to save money on energy and to use their household income towards other living costs.

York Financial Assistance Scheme

York Financial Assistance Scheme was launched on 1st April 2013 and helps individuals and families who need emergency financial support. Since April 2013, 1138 people have received support from the York Financial Assistance Scheme and of these, 176 were under 25. Money has been used for a variety of needs (10% for food, 35% to replace broken white goods).

Financial Inclusion

Financial Inclusion is a state in which all people have access to appropriate, desired financial products and services in order to manage their money more effectively.  It is achieved by financial literacy and financial capability on the part of the consumer, and access on the part of the financial product, services and advice suppliers.

The role of the Financial Inclusion Steering Group (FISG):

  • Equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to improve and manage their lives by providing clear, coordinated advice and information, and to support them in an increasingly turbulent economic environment to make the right choices to bring about financial stability
  • Increase awareness/understanding of the benefits system and improve access to services.
  • Align and co-ordinate existing activity and target areas of need.
  • Agree measures aimed at reducing the cost of living for those in poverty for food, fuel, childcare and white goods and furniture.

In January 2014, the FISG considered a presentation from the Big Issue regarding an initiative called the Rental Exchange.  This is a scheme being developed by Big Issue and Experian to help build up the credit score of Social Housing tenants using their rent payment histories.  If thought to be practical to implement, it will be promoted to all social housing providers in the city as a means of assisting tenants to gain access to a wider range of more affordable mainstream credit.

Work will continue with the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) for England to warn of the dangers of using illegal loan sharks and to continue to promote the anti-loan shark charter.  The IMLT is also finalising lesson plans for schools that will be free of charge, aligned to the curriculum and PFEG quality marked. It is likely that the financial inclusion lesson packs, covering key stages 2, 3, 4 and 5, will be available in March 2014. It will be important to bring these to the attention of schools, particularly those keen to contribute to the anti-poverty agenda.

Increase take up of free school meals

Universal Infant Free School Meals (UISFM)

September 2014 sees the introduction of UIFSMs for all reception, year 1 and year 2 pupils across primary schools in England. In York communication with schools and catering providers began shortly after the government announcement to ascertain each individual school’s requirement. The DfE has provided each Local Authority with funding to contribute towards the cost of expanding kitchens/dining areas, ovens, fridges and freezers as well as trays and cutlery. Some schools are also looking at lunchtime arrangements to ensure all pupils have sufficient time to eat a school lunch.

School Meals Scrutiny

The Learning and Culture Overview Scrutiny Committee has set up a working group, whose remit is to look at reasons for low uptake of school meals across York schools and to look at opportunities to increase take-up. The working group is due to finish its work in March 2014 and report back to Scrutiny soon after having had the opportunity to meet with representatives of pupils, parents, schools and school meal providers.

Changes to Registration Process

Over the last 12-16 months CYC has done a lot of work to try and increase free school meal registration. This began with a joint exercise between the Benefits and School Services teams to identify low income families on benefits who had not applied for free school meals. This has resulted in an additional 206 pupils now qualifying for free school meals.

The purchase of some additional software has enabled parents to apply online for free school meals. This provides them with an instant response as to whether they qualify for free school meals and prevents a long application process if the parent is not eligible. A review of the application process is also being considered to link benefits application process to free school meals. This would enable parents who apply for a qualifying benefit to also apply for free school meals at the same time. This would reduce the need for a second application process for a separate free school meal.

Taking a Free School Meal

Information on the take-up of free school meals has shown that consistently, take-up of school meals in York schools is below the national average and remains at 30-35%. Unfortunately there is no data to show whether free schools meals pupils are eating their entitlement to a meal each day. Although some schools are able to collect this type of data if they have cashless school meals systems in place (mainly secondary schools), there is not a city wide collection of this data. On the back of UISFM and to assess its impact, the DfE is currently consulting nationally with a number of schools to look at whether it is possible to collect this type of information on a more regular basis. 

Family Information Service

01904 554444

fis@york.gov.uk