A helping hand

Camilla wearing a headset and Islington Council lanyard, smiling, in an office setting

Many residents are struggling with rising costs, which is why it’s important to know that the council is here to help. Islington Council has a team of advisors who support people who are on a low income to identify and claim benefits that they’re entitled to, guiding them through every step of the process. We caught up with Camilla, Patric and Courteney, who are on the frontline directing people to the right service, to find out more about how they’re helping people in Islington get through the cost-of-living crisis

Camilla, Access Islington adviser
I started working for Islington Council in 2007 as a tenancy assistant, then moved on to being a customer adviser. Now, I’m an Access Islington adviser and my job is to talk to people about their needs and see if any help can be provided. I might refer them to the Seasonal Health Intervention Network (SHINE) for help with energy bills and advice; to the IMAX team for help with benefits; or to iWork for employment support.

I enjoy the face-to-face element of the job – helping people. We get so many different characters in the contact centre, and I enjoy meeting them. Helping and seeing a customer happy and satisfied makes me feel glad that I have provided a good service. If you are stressed and don’t know where to turn, do not worry – I will do my best to help you or to find the right person or department who can. I won’t let you leave without the information you need.

It’s important that you are happy with what I have said and everything is clear. I will always give people my name, so they can come back to me personally if they need further assistance.

Patric, welfare rights officer
I’ve worked for Islington Council for more than 10 years and as somebody who has grown up in the borough, I get an immense sense of pride from giving back to the residents of Islington.

I am one of the officers in the IMAX team. We assist people with checks to ensure they are on the correct benefits and check for entitlement to others. My role involves supporting residents to make benefit claims, understand benefit changes and challenge and appeal benefit decisions. Recently, I have also been working closely with the council’s No Recourse to Public Funds team to support the Afghan Resettlement Scheme and the Ukrainian Sponsorship Programme.

This is a worrying time for everybody in the country, regardless of whether you are employed or not. The cost-of-living crisis will impact people’s disposable income. My advice to anyone struggling to make ends meet is to either contact the IMAX team or make use of online tools such as benefit calculators to check your entitlement, shop around for the best deals from energy providers and keep track of your spending.

Last but not least, seek advice or help before things get worse! Always remember, you are not alone – there are many services and organisations within the borough who want to help.

Courteney, Resident Support Scheme assessment officer
I work on the Resident Support Scheme, which provides support for Islington residents who receive benefits, including grants for people who do not have the means to purchase furniture and white goods that they need, and Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to help with rent shortfalls and deposits. I also assist those who are fleeing disaster such as domestic violence, fire or flood, and people who are waiting for their first payment of Universal Credit or who have had their benefits stopped unexpectedly, by providing food, fuel and sometimes clothing vouchers.

Many people are struggling to meet the rising costs of living expenses and may find themselves in a position where they are torn between purchasing a replacement household item, such as fridge freezer, or adding money onto their fuel meter. We recently helped an elderly resident with a new cooker, for example, as theirs had broken. Due to age and health conditions, they couldn’t go out much to purchase ready-made food, so they were reliant on takeaways, which was costly and unhealthy. While relatives did bring them food every so often, the resident didn’t have the ability to cook themselves fresh meals, which was something they really enjoyed. Once we gave them a cooker they were able to cook again, which the resident was very grateful for.

There are so many people who are struggling with everyday expenses. If you are finding things difficult, please don’t suffer in silence. Our friendly team are here to provide support in a confidential and non-judgemental manner. We want to help, so please reach out if you need support.

For friendly advice on benefits, help with bills and other ways to make your money go further, call 020 7527 8222, email heretohelp@islington.gov.uk, or visit the Islington Council cost of living web page.

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