Renfrewshire Council

11. Maximising the support available for families to lead dignified lives and meet their basic needs

In Renfrewshire, we support families to make the most of their money, working to ensure their income is maximised and outgoings are minimised. Both our longer-term Tackling Poverty programme and our more recent Social Renewal plan include projects and activities which help families living in poverty. These, combined with our housing plans, work on digital and other actions across the council contribute to reducing poverty and financial insecurity, digital exclusion and increasing community resilience.

Our advice partnership continues, with advice providers across council services, the third sector, Social Security Scotland and most recently NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) coming together to share information and work to reduce gaps and coordinate services.

Our ongoing commitment to advice provision and our innovative affordable credit work; our digital initiatives, and housing strategies alongside our work to bolster administered funds and maximise their benefits for families help make families' money go further and help them avoid financial crises. Throughout Renfrewshire, across council services, and with a variety of partners, our actions help families reduce their cost of living and lead dignified lives.

Social Renewal

Much of our work to tackle inequalities and maximise support for families in Renfrewshire is underpinned by our Social Renewal plan.

During summer 2021, officers worked with partners to identify actions in relation to income, financial insecurity and poverty theme as a key focus, in recognition of the end of the furlough scheme and rising food and energy costs being experienced and which were anticipated to worsen over Winter 2021.

The initial range of initial priorities and actions developed under the plan include a number which support families to lead dignified lives. These include: 

  • the development of a benefit take up campaign, underpinned by £5,000 funding
  • allocation of £45,000 funding to Engage Renfrewshire to lead an affordable credit initiative.
  • £75,000 funding allocated to three local partner organisations to establish or develop community pantries and promote dignified access to food
  • development of a £25,000 Community Food Fund
  • development of a £50,000 fuel insecurity pilot to work with low-income households struggling to meet immediate fuel costs linked to the provision of energy advice in partnership with Renfrewshire Foodbank, Linstone Housing Association and Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau.

Tackling Poverty programme

Projects under our Tackling Poverty programme provide supports that help families lead dignified lives. Targeting support to families that need it most initiatives are:

  • Families First/school support which continues to offer targeted financial advice across Renfrewshire's schools
  • the Healthier, Wealthier Children service which continues to provide targeted advice and support to new and expectant parents on managing changes to finances and supporting them to claim benefits they are entitled to.
  • specialist energy advice continues to be offered to families who need support to reduce their energy bills, manage fuel debt and improve the energy efficiency in their homes.

Support with Food


-£75,000 funding allocated to three local partner organisations to establish or develop community pantries and promote dignified access to food. The organisations provided with funding, STAR Project, Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH) and Active Communities were selected as already well established in their communities and offering a number of support services for families already. This will allow families to access holistic support along with low-cost food.

Community Food Fund

£25,000 of funding was allocated to provide small awards to organisations to develop community food offerings which move from emergency response to promote dignified, localised, access to food and community resilience. An initial allocation of £8940 was made to three local groups to alleviate some of the pressures of food insecurity in their areas by providing ongoing and accessible support to families.

Support for Renfrewshire Foodbank

£10,000 has been provided to Renfrewshire Foodbank to help sustain their service. A Renfrewshire Council advice worker is attached to the Foodbank on a full time basis to provide advice to clients attending.

Support with Energy

Fuel Insecurity Pilot

Development of a £50,000 fuel insecurity pilot to work with low-income households struggling to meet immediate fuel costs linked to the provision of energy advice in partnership with Renfrewshire Foodbank, Linstone Housing Association and Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau. The Foodbank and Linstone Housing Association provide fuel vouchers for both pre-payment and credit meters to provide emergency assistance to families, and this is supported by advice from Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau Energy Advisors.

Energy Management Unit

Our Energy Management Unit comprises a team of three who provide advice to anyone struggling with energy costs and advocate for clients with energy companies. The advisers can also access available funds to support clients reduce bills/access emergency fuel. Overall, client financial gain for this service in 21/22 was £325,376. Clients supported included 144 families with children under 16.

Information sessions

In the latter part of 2021 and early 2022, energy bills became the issue most families reported being concerned with. To assist practitioners working with low-income families, either in the 3rd sector or within Council Services a 'Spotlight Session' was organised to clarify where those worried about energy costs could seek help and financial support within Renfrewshire. A further 'Ren Talk' session was arranged for Council, HSCP and OneRen staff.

•In addition, NHSGGC ran a series of online information sessions for their staff in partnership with Home Energy Scotland. The Health Board also include messages around advice on their payslips.

Income maximisation through advice

Throughout 2021/22, income maximisation through advice has been a focus for the council and partners.

The council's Advice Works service continues to provide advice with regards to money, debt and benefits as well as providing advice and representation at benefit appeals. Overall, the financial gain for clients this year was over £9.25million. Advice Works provides the Healthier Wealthier Children advice, as well as that offered to all schools in Renfrewshire.

The predominantly council funded Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau's (RCAB) general service has gained more than £2million for the people of Renfrewshire this year. This is in addition to the legal service, fair work and welfare rights services, all funded by Renfrewshire Council.

This year, Advice Works and RCAB have worked closely with to ensure people are getting the benefits they are entitled to and the best money advice. They worked together on development of a benefit take up campaign, developed with partners and successfully launched during November 2021, with the aim of maximising income for low-income households. 60 clients of all ages were seen during the launch week, with support given around a number of benefits. A further 50 clients were seen in January 2022 when a similar campaign was run around debt and money advice. These campaigns have been very successful and it is intended to run them at regular intervals each year.

We have continued to work closely with Social Security Scotland to ensure that referral between our clients and theirs is as simple as possible to maximise income for parents and parents to be. With both the local delivery lead and client support adviser team leader being part of our advice partnership, we can ensure relevant information is shared.

In our benefits take up work, we have specifically designed marketing materials around benefits for parents, including Best Start Grants and Scottish Child Payment to maximise numbers coming forward to claim these benefits.

Healthier Wealthier Children

The Healthier Wealthier Children (HWC) service works closely with antenatal and community child health services to target pregnant women and families with young children experiencing, or at risk of, child poverty as costs increase and employment patterns change around the birth of a child. The project offers income maximisation advice and aims to prevent families from falling into child poverty by working with health and early years services to identify families at risk at an early stage.

The service has helped 528 families this year, with client financial gain of £417,319.15. Of these, 132 fitted into the child poverty priority groups, with lone parents being the largest group receiving advice. The service is now collecting postcode information for the priority groups which will allow us to better plan services.

HWC data is reported into NHSGGC financial inequalities group, the NHSGGC child poverty group and as part of Renfrewshire HSCP strategic planning.

School Support Service

Our School Support service offers advice to parents and carers via all schools and early learning centres. This year, 514 clients were assisted with advice with associated financial gain of £620,140.40.

Improving the Cancer Journey

The Improving the Cancer Journey service, in partnership with Macmillan, has continued to offer holistic advice for those with a cancer diagnosis, with a growth in referrals from Renfrewshire HSCP. With money worries highlighted as the main issue for service users, in the last two years, £793,174.13 has been gained for 800 clients. Although this is a universal service, many parents have gained from the service. Next year, the service will grow to cover long-term health conditions as well as cancer.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde - Advice in Hospitals

Although the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley is attended by patients from the West of Scotland, it sees most of those in need of hospital care from Renfrewshire. The support and information service aims to be the first port of call for all non-clinical health and social care enquiries. The information hub in the RAH provides information about money and benefits, income maximisation support and help with energy bills as well as information and support for carers and patients. It also provides a food supply on discharge for those who need it, in partnership with Renfrewshire Foodbank.

Late in 2021/22, their health improvement lead with responsibility for the service, joined Renfrewshire's advice partnership.

In the Royal Hospital for Children, which supports Renfrewshire families, the money advice service continues to support parents, carers and families. It provides an embedded and co-located money and debt advice with advocacy service to ensure that families access all benefits and entitlements and supports with debt issues, budgeting, energy costs, housing or eviction issues, employment, grants, white goods and applies a whole family holistic approach. 16 families from Renfrewshire were supported in 2021/22. The Raising Money Worries in Maternity services also had 15 referrals from Renfrewshire families.

In addition, research carried out with BAME women, including women in persistent poverty, highlighted barriers to service access (including use of interpreting) and ways in which the experience could be improved. Initial actions to address structural barriers in the maternity pathway include piloting video interpreting in the early pregnancy pathway and improving access to the maternity booking line through use of a patient interpreting code. 

Looking forward, a pilot to support patients or staff with Universal Credit issues is in development at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. This will involve telephone access for direct support to a dedicated DWP staff member which aims to prevent sanctions.

NHSGGC Health Visiting and Special Needs in Pregnancy Service

There has been a detailed pilot and review in NHSGGC for those accessing Special Needs in Pregnancy( SNIPs) and receiving money Matters supports in the Glasgow area. This service is a specialist maternity service that supports people who are pregnant with drug and/or alcohol misuse, domestic violence issues, who may be a teenage pregnancy and those with mental health issues. The learning from this will be rolled out across Renfrewshire for all families accessing SNIPs support.

The updated Tackling Child Poverty delivery plan covering the period of 2022/26 (published 24 March 2022) highlights that the health visiting universal pathway promoting support to families with money worries. This reinforces that section of the pathway and plans for NHSGGC refreshing this process are being reviewed by the NHSGGC financial inequalities group.

Affordable Credit

£45,000 funding was provided to Engage Renfrewshire, our third sector interface to lead an affordable credit initiative under the existing banner of Renfrewshire Affordable Credit Alliance (RACA). An affordable credit officer (AFO) was employed in October 2021 with two priority areas; promotion of affordable credit options in Renfrewshire, and the prevention and reduction of people using illegal money lenders.

The AFO has carried out sessions with a number of community groups, including money management sessions with young people and local ethnically diverse communities, tailoring messages to their needs. This includes 'tea and tech' sessions working with Barclays bank and local credit unions, Fair For You and Scotcash as well as Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau to help people engage with financial services safely online.

In addition, joint sessions have been run with Renfrewshire HSCP's financial insecurity team and presentations given to both Renfrewshire Council and Renfrewshire HSCP staff both as practitioners and consumers.

Work around illegal money lending has led to RACA being awarded the Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit Charter Mark. Looking forward to the year ahead, the AFO will continue to work with organisations targeting child poverty priority groups, such as Barnardos and Pachedu and continue to build connections in Renfrewshire communities.  


Within the community impact assessment undertaken in late 2020, the positive benefits that digital access has brought to many households across Renfrewshire were recognised, however for specific groups of people there remain real barriers to access which exacerbate existing inequalities. Digital exclusion can broadly be considered in terms of connectivity, access to a device, skills and positive and accessible online experiences.

Renfrewshire has a strong reputation nationally in relation to the partnership approach to tackling digital exclusion. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way in which people across communities have used technology, and has also widened existing inequalities around access and skills. Renfrewshire Council has participated in the Connecting Scotland programme to ensure that local people are able to gain access to devices and connectivity to support their wellbeing, and just under 2,000 devices have been allocated to date. In addition, City Fibre are investing in a 700km network providing Renfrewshire residents and businesses with access to the fastest, most reliable gigabit speed connectivity.

The council will continue to develop this approach through the development of a digital champions network in partnership with OneRen and £80,000 has been allocated to this project from the £100,000 allocated to tackle digital exclusion. This will be an initiative with SCVO and will build a network of volunteers and staff, and capacity across local third and community organisations, so that more local people can be supported to access and use digital technology. This will allow us to begin to understand how place-based solutions to digital inclusion could work and to develop a model of best practice for use across Scotland. 

A new focus group has been created called Citizen Voice. The group is made up of 23 members across public and the third sector representing the needs of citizens with regard to digital. This group is working collectively to identify local barriers to digital participation and how these can be overcome. 

Free Bus Travel - NEC

11,060 young people in Renfrewshire have signed up for an NEC card with free bus travel. Support has been provided by our youth services team, who worked with a number of organisations who supported young people were likely to face barriers to applying to get the card. These organisations are known as trusted verifiers - we have an agreement in place that staff act as referees for the young people and can confirm their personal information to the degree required by the scheme, removing the need for the young person to do it.

Services who supported young people with the process include: Renfrewshire Council social work (fostering service, throughcare, kinship care, area teams, unaccompanied young people, supported carers, care experienced team, SPACE team), Renfrewshire Women's Aid, Who Cares? Scotland in Renfrewshire and Kibble.

We adapted processes for take up of the Junior card (for five to 10-year-olds), adding an application process through ParentPay (which is popular in Renfrewshire). Schools can also provide paper applications. Those applying for the Young Scot National Entitlement Card (the card for those aged 11-year-olds and older) have always been able to apply at any local library in Renfrewshire. This way they can be supported by a member of staff if they need it. One Ren libraries and youth services support this process.

We were also aware that some families could not access the required proof documents for the scheme or faced paying £15 for a birth certificate.  We decided to simplify the form so that those in school could simply include their school on the form and we would verify their details using SEEMIS or other back of house systems where possible.  This has made accessing the scheme easier and more inclusive.

Looking forward, each year, youth services manages the primary seven (P7) bulk process for Young Scot cards. This gives every primary seven pupil the chance to apply for a card and typically takes place between March and May. It involves a photographer visiting every school to photograph the primary seven pupils for their card and a bulk data exercise for those who provide consent.

During the summer holidays, we will be looking at uptake at certain schools and where this is low, will include a sign-up availability at summer activity camps for parents. These tend to have a higher uptake from families experiencing poverty and so information and easy sign up may assist those who haven't used the methods already available.

Winter Support Funding

In the past year, Renfrewshire Council has administered a range of funds to support families.

It was announced in late 2021 that £848,000 additional funding would be allocated to the council from Scottish Government, to support people experiencing financial insecurity over the immediate winter period.

In developing options in relation to this additional Scottish Government funding, officers worked with partners and across services to map financial payments and/or support arrangements that have been allocated through local authorities during the pandemic, and to undertake an initial assessment of specific groups that could be targeted through this funding.

In response to the local needs assessment undertaken and in line with the Scottish Government's guidance on the utilisation of this funding, the £848,000 of additional Scottish Government has been initially allocated as follows:

  • £230,000 to provide individual grants of £100 for people facing financial insecurity or hardship
  • £325,000 to provide a £50 payment per child for winter clothing for children in receipt of school clothing grant
  • £160,000 to top up the Scottish Welfare Fund to maintain payments at the current rate
  • £90,000 to top up discretionary housing payments which will assist clients in maintaining their tenancy and prevent homelessness
  • £38,000 for an additional Improving the Cancer Journey coordinator for one year to support individuals who have a long-term condition. This will allow clients to be seen quicker and provided with appropriate advice.

Administering other support funds

There has been a Tenant Support Fund funded by Scottish Government and administered by local authorities to people renting in social or private sectors who are struggling with rent arrears directly caused by Coronavirus (COVID-19) or at risk of repossession or homelessness.

A one-off Low Income Pandemic Payment of £130 was made in autumn 2021 to help towards increased costs and potential lost income during the pandemic. This was paid to people who are in receipt of Council Tax Reduction as well as some people who are exempt from council tax.

There have been a number of Scottish Government funded payments throughout the pandemic focussed on low-income households with children. These will be sustained throughout 2022 as four payments throughout the year (known as Scottish Child Bridging Payment), when they will be replaced by the full-roll out of the Scottish Child Payment by Social Security Scotland. These payments are £130 per child eligible for free school meals due to low-income, and will be made at Easter, summer, October and Christmas in line with the start of the school holidays. These payments are for children six and over, as those under six will receive Scottish Child Payment.

In addition, cash payments of £2.25 per day, per child are made for free school meals for the periods of times children have been on school holidays. The payment is made at a flat rate regardless of age.

Locally, we continue to administer both the Scottish Welfare Fund and Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) throughout the pandemic. While these supports are 'business-as-usual', since the beginning of the pandemic they have been topped up by both local and national funding to meet demand. In 2021/22, DHP was topped up by £190,000 and Scottish Welfare Fund by £160,000 (including additional Scottish Government funding).

In February 2022, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced a further £290 million in financial support to help address the rising cost of living. New measures announced included £280 million to provide £150 to every household in receipt of Council Tax Reduction in any band and to provide £150 to all other occupied households in bands A to D. In Renfrewshire, the households affected received £150 credit towards their council tax bill.

Period Poverty

As well as our general provision of sanitary products in libraries, leisure centres and town halls and our ordering service for individuals, we have focussed on provision to community groups who work with families with young children, especially those with young children such as Home-Start and have also provided products to early learning centres in areas of high deprivation, for mothers and other carers and family members to pick up what they need.

We have also worked with a number of our pantries and Renfrewshire Foodbank to provide reusable products to establish if those types of products work well for people with lower incomes.

Our consultation on free sanitary products was carried out in May 2022 and the results will be the basis for our longer-term strategy with regard to period products.


Renfrewshire Local Housing Strategy 2022-2027

At the time of writing this Local Child Poverty Action Report, the council's Local Housing Strategy 2022-2027 is in draft form and out for consultation within the area. The draft local housing strategy builds on the previous housing strategy and supports the regeneration of existing neighbourhoods and the delivery of high quality, well designed, energy efficient and sustainable places.

The draft strategy proposes five Strategic Priorities for Renfrewshire, which the Council and partners will seek to deliver over the next five years.

  1. the supply and delivery of housing is increased across all tenures to meet the housing needs of different groups and create attractive and sustainable places
  2. people live in high quality, well managed homes in sustainable neighbourhoods
  3. address the challenges of the climate emergency, delivering homes that are warm, energy efficient and fuel poverty is minimised
  4. preventing and addressing homelessness with vulnerable people getting the advice and support they need
  5. people can live independently for as long as possible in their own home and the different housing needs of people across Renfrewshire are being met.

Data released by Energy Action Scotland in January 2022 showed that just over one in five people in Renfrewshire are living in fuel poverty. As part of strategic priority three, a distinct fuel poverty strategy is being developed for Renfrewshire.

Housing Led Regeneration and Renewal Programme

Renfrewshire Council's Housing-Led Regeneration and Renewal programme will deliver modern, high quality, energy efficient, affordable council housing that will not only significantly enhance the council's housing stock but will also contribute to the wider transformation of Renfrewshire as a place and will be central to the economic and social recovery of Renfrewshire. This ambitious programme will be taken forward as a key council priority, designed to deliver maximum benefits for local communities, with the active involvement of services across the council. Phase one of the £100million, ten-year programme covers eight areas which have been identified as being in particular need of investment and which contain a total of 1,648 properties; 1,147 of which are in council ownership.

The programme will see a mix of investment to improve existing buildings and the common areas around them, with potential demolition and new-build in some areas, improving the wider neighbourhoods as places to live and contributing to the area's recovery from the pandemic. It is anticipated that, along with refurbishment of existing properties, around 400 new affordable social rent houses will be built.

A package of enhanced improvement works will be developed which may include external improvement works such as thermal render, roofs, rainwater goods and energy-efficient doors and windows to properties along with environmental improvements to the surrounding area. Fabric works will be tailored to the buildings in each area and will adopt a whole house retrofit approach with measures to improve energy efficiency and help reduce energy costs for tenants and residents.

During summer and autumn 2021, an in-depth survey was conducted with residents to establish views on the initial proposals being made and collect information on household demographics to assist planning.

Renfrewshire Housing First

The Renfrewshire Housing First service, initially set up as a one-year pilot in 2013, continues to grow. The service provides outreach support to individuals aged 18 or over who are homeless, have an active addiction and live in the Renfrewshire area. Renfrewshire Housing First service supports people to access a permanent tenancy within the local authority. The service also employs peer support practitioners who have been through their own addiction and in recovery and staff who offer a wide range of support to individuals with complex needs.

As well as providing support with the practical aspects of maintaining a tenancy, service users also receive support to access services relating to mental health, addictions and social opportunities and are offered support to find something in their life which is meaningful to them, through leisure activities, voluntary work, education or employment. The emphasis is always on what the individual wishes to have in their life, at a time when they are ready for it. Support is not time limited and can be in place for as long as the person requires it. Service users have access to an on-call service out with service hours.

The number of individuals being supported through the housing first approach, which provides wraparound support for those in housing need to move to and sustain settled accommodation, has increased from 20 to up to 43 at any one time.

Rent Collection

Our approach to rent collection ensures that officers have continued to proactively contact tenants where there has been missed rent payments or changes to rent payment patterns to offer advice on accessing benefits and other support services as appropriate.