A groundbreaking council-led homelessness prevention initiative has been named a runner-up at the Guardian Public Service Awards.
At a ceremony in central London on Tuesday 27 November celebrating the best public sector initiatives, Croydon Council was one of three finalists in the housing category for The Food Stop, which became the capital’s first joint welfare and food club when it began in October 2017.
Launched with around 30 partner organisations under the umbrella name Community Connect, The Food Stop provides around 160 struggling households with a weekly shop for £3.50, a jobs club, cookery courses and help with household finances, debt management and skills training from Croydon Council’s Gateway service.
Since launching for 100 members, so far the scheme based at The Family Centre in Fieldway has:
• Prevented 47 rented households from becoming homeless through early intervention
• Saved members over £22,000 off their combined bills – each gets £20 of food for £3.50 a week
• Reduced the number of people behind in their rent from 22 to zero
• Helped 38 people into work or training
• Supplied 5.3 tonnes of fresh discounted food, including fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy
Gateway works by giving struggling households one-to-one dedicated support, including debt management, benefits advice and help to boost their skills and job prospects. In 2017/2018 alone, the Gateway approach helped over 2,400 families avoid homelessness, gave budgeting support to over 14,900 people and improved the digital skills of over 4,700 people on Universal Credit.
The council’s Gateway service has also begun plans to launch another Food Stop in Thornton Heath this winter as part of a wider council focus on providing more services across the borough through early intervention.
“To be named runner-up for a prestigious national award like this is a real accolade, and we will continue to use our successful Food Stop model with community partners to help even more struggling Croydon families so they improve their financial independence and avoid homelessness.”
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services