A networking and insight sharing forum for members of the Social Innovation Council.
On Tuesday 13th December we held our final SIC Quarterly Forum of 2022 as an opportunity to bring together and share insights from different organisations who provide support to individuals, as we reflect on the challenges of the past year and collaboratively looked at how we can tackle the next year ahead.
After sharing some updates on the Lightning Reach portal and our impact one year since the portal had launched, we heard from our three speakers Peter Sumby, Director of Development and Delivery at National Energy Action (NEA), Rosie Trickett, Communications and Engagement Officer at the Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO) and Chris Flynn, Assistant Director, Homeownership & Rents, from Lambeth Council.
Highlights from our speaker sessions
Some important insights shared during these sessions included the stark realities people in the UK are now facing when it comes to poverty and the cost of living crisis. Peter from NEA highlighted fuel poverty has risen from around 4m households in Oct 2021, to 6.7m households unable to keep warm in April 2022 due to energy price rises - with further uncertainty facing everyone when the energy price guarantee ends next March, where this number could rise substantially more.
Rosie from the ACO shared how their members (charities that give grants to individuals) are responding to the cost of living crisis, sharing interesting insights from a recent survey they undertook with their member charities. This includes 74% of charities seeing an increase in applications for support this year, and some charities hitting their capacity for grant applications shortly after opening their funds for applications, or creating new funds specifically to respond to the cost of living crisis.
Both Peter and Rosie also highlighted the importance of looking after our own staff too during these difficult times when services are stretched more than ever, and where staff are having to listen to increasingly difficult stories and have more challenging conversations.
Chris from Lambeth Council shared their experience and journey of working with Lightning Reach’s portal. It was fantastic to hear of their positive experience so far, from meeting with Lightning Reach a year ago and involving their residents in the design and testing of the portal, to signposting their residents to the portal, then accepting direct applications through the portal for some of their discretionary payment schemes.
Chris outlined how it has made the lives of their Income Officers and residents much easier in now being able to find support in one place, instead of having to remember many different sources of support. It also made residents’ journeys easier in only needing to tell their story once to match and apply for multiple forms of support. Chris highlighted the value in residents being matched to new support when this had been later added to the portal, and how one of their residents managed to receive a grant from the Teaching Staff Trust within just a couple of days of receiving a notification about the portal.
“It’s just incredible - if you take that from a position of where historically that would have had to be a separate application, it could have taken weeks (for someone to be given a grant). It’s the perfect single front door for us….we see this as the opportunity to really expand our services to our residents”
Chris also highlighted that as well as signposting to the portal, the real success has been through having direct applications on the portal in removing the burden for individuals applying for support - where Lambeth has already seen in just a few weeks the number of applications almost double for discretionary housing support and council tax support.
Insights from the group
It was also great to hear a bit of impromptu sharing from Steve, Head of Social Policy & Grant Giving at the Royal British Legion, about their experience administering their new cost of living grant through the Lightning Reach portal. He mentioned being amazed both in terms of the demand they have seen for the grant and how easy it was to process applications using the portal, having received around >3,000 applications within less than two months of its launch in October. RBL was able to award >£1m in grants during this short period - reaching a broader range of people and delivering a similar amount of support to its other grant programmes, with a far smaller team of people.
“It’s proving to be a fantastically useful tool for reaching people, collecting their information and reaching those people who don’t want to phone up and speak to someone to get support” - Steve Baynes, Royal British Legion
Before we moved into breakout groups, we shared three polls with the group to gain a quick snapshot of what organisations who support individuals thought their main priorities would be in 2023, how their demand for support has changed and how they spend time finding or signposting people to other sources of support. You can view the results of these polls below:
Breakout room discussions & networking
Attendees then had the option to select a breakout room depending on what topic they were interested in discussing with their peers. Breakout 1 room had a discussion around how organisations that support individuals can reach a broader range of people who might be in need. Members of this group discussed the limitations of using various channels to reach different audiences, limits caused by capacity within teams to do work around reaching different audiences, or being bound by charitable objectives and the need to justify what you are doing is benefiting their industry. Attendees flagged they found it particularly difficult to reach retired members of their communities who might not be online, and also the difficulties in raising awareness of occupational benevolent charities when many are not aware they exist.
Breakout room 2 focused on how organisations are planning to cope with an increased demand on their services that is forecast due to the cost of living crisis, where the ability for the Lightning Reach portal to help organisations reach new audiences and different demographics was highlighted, as well as sharing other channels and processes already being used to help manage demand and find others more support, as well as discussing the impact of fraud on processes.
Breakout room 3 discussed how we might support clients or staff to find financial support from other providers during the cost of living crisis. We discussed what sources of support organisations found most useful for signposting people to and how they prioritise this, as well as as constraints they face around being unable to keep up with all the places support is offered and the signposting options available, not having the capacity to apply on behalf of their clients, and not being in a position to track outcomes after signposting someone. Some attendees also mentioned their excitement about the Lightning Reach portal and its potential to help clients find support in one place, particularly once we develop the functionality for the portal to be used on behalf of others.
Thank you to all our speakers and those that attended the session. It feels more important than ever that organisations providing support to individuals can come together and collaborate to share how we plan to deal with the uncertainty and unprecedented demand on services we face looking at the next year ahead - and we look forward to holding our next Quarterly Forum in the New Year.
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