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North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund - update bulletin for agencies April 2021

Contents

Handover from Mark Taylor to Amber Graver

Award entitlement update

Blackhawk Customer Journey

Covid-19 update

Stakeholder workshop 2021 save the date

Proposed changes to the fund

Change in account management of the scheme

 

Handover from Mark Taylor to Amber Graver

Dear Agents - Amber here!

I believe the last Bulletin update for Authorised Agents was published in August 2020 and what an 8 months it has been since then! I could start this Bulletin with a whole host of updates but what I really want to do is to say “hello” first and foremost.
 

I hope you are well? 2020 was an incredibly tough year for many of us and the difficulties faced have continued into 2021 - though hope is in sight with the vaccination scheme roll out and the ease of lockdown 3 measures underway.
 

I want to thank you personally, for your continued efforts in supporting those deemed most vulnerable in North Yorkshire through the Local Assistance Fund and of course, your wider work. I would also like to reach out to each of you in reminding you to please take care of yourselves and each other as we continue to see and experience the fall out of the Covid-19 pandemic. My door will always be open for conversation and going forward, you can reach me at amber.graver@northyorks.gov.uk / nylaf@northyorks.gov.uk or on 01609 533914.
 

I would like to thank Mark Taylor for all that he has done in administering the ‘NYLAF’ for over 5 years. I hear only good things of how he has developed the Fund and the core relationships involved in the smooth running of this essential Programme in the County.
 

I would secondly like to thank Neil Irving for trusting me with taking on this new role as part of my wider role (Stronger Communities Development Officer) within North Yorkshire County Council.
 

I know this fund is incredibly important and necessary and I hope to continue the good work of Mark in this role of NYLAF Officer and aspire to elevate the Fund – its service and achievements.
 

Mark has been patient and graceful enough to work with me over the past couple of months on a handover process. Slowly but surely I am finding my feet and I am delighted to be writing this update for you today, and look forward to meeting you all when possible – even if remote.
 

Award entitlement update

As you read in the last Bulletin update, on the 10th June, the Government announced a one-off emergency fund to be distributed to Local Authorities in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials due to Covid-19.
 

We received £150,000 of this allocation, to temporarily increase award entitlement for emergency provision from the Local Assistance Fund. From the 7th September, eligible applicants were able to apply for up to three awards of emergency food and/or utility vouchers.  
 

I am happy to confirm this temporary award entitlement will be continuing. We had a number of conversations in February when looking at both the year-end period and a year-on since the country saw its first Covid-19 lockdown. In these conversations, it was agreed we would continue to allow individuals to apply for up to three emergency vouchers in a 12-month rolling period – this scheme will be reviewed in September 2021.
 

As a reminder – if an individual is already working with an Authorised Agent, then the Authorised Agent can apply on their behalf via the online form accessible via FFBS FlexiGrant. For applicants not yet working with an Authorised Agent they will be able to ring Family Fund Business Services to complete two applications (up from one) over the phone; the third application must be done through an Authorised Agent.
 

If anyone has any queries over this – please do get in touch.
 

Blackhawk Customer Journey

We have been seeing a few queries coming in from Agents about the emails that go out for the food vouchers from BlackHawk.
 

With the recent re-branding from SVM to BlackHawk, we thought it might be timely to include the Customer Journey within the Agent Bulletin. If anyone has any questions regarding this issue, please do get in touch with either Helen Tillett or myself.
 

BlackHawk customer journey

  1. The customer (awarding organisation) makes an award for a food or clothing voucher from BlackHawk on the FFBS Portal.
  2. The following working day, the email address specified on the order will receive an email from Vouchers@select-your-reward.co.uk inviting the beneficiary to follow a link to select their voucher.
  3. By following the link, the beneficiary will be taken to the Award eCode site where they can select their voucher from a selection of retailers appropriate to the category (food or clothing) awarded.
  4. Please be aware that each retailer operates their own terms and conditions for the vouchers they offer. Which the beneficiary can read before they add the voucher(s) to their basket.
  5. The value awarded can be split across one or more voucher types, but all must be selected at the same time. A beneficiary will not be able to proceed to checkout without adding vouchers to their basket totalling the full amount awarded.
  6. The beneficiary can then checkout their selected vouchers by confirming their details for delivery. In most cases this requires a delivery name and address, however a postal address, will also be required for the Fashion Choice Gift Card, which is a physical product.
  7. The beneficiary will then receive a confirmation email to the email address they gave during the checkout process confirming their order, followed by delivery of their selected voucher(s) to be spent in-store or online in accordance with the Ts & Cs of the chosen retailer.
     

Covid-19 update

An update was circulated to Agents in March concerning changes to the Fund because of Covid-19, such as the pause on clothing awards and the fitting of white goods. Those changes are no longer in effect and the Fund is operating as normal.  
 

Applicants can be reassured that suppliers undertaking deliveries or installations will be adhering to social distancing and other Covid-19 safety measures.
 

If Agents have seen / heard of any issue concerning Covid-19, safety please do get in touch.
 

Stakeholder Workshop 2021 save the date

The last Annual Stakeholder Workshop to take place was in November 2019. Last year, the Workshop did not go ahead due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
 

We are excited to announce that we will be going ahead with a Stakeholder Workshop this year and have set aside October 11th for this. Please save this date. An invitation and agenda will come to you ahead of time.
 

The Workshop is valuable for us and we hope yourselves. It is a time for feedback and where we are able to engage in discussion with you.
 

Neil and I are being cautious however, and are proposing this event take place online via Microsoft Teams.
 

We have continued to communicate with partners, and always welcome any comments or feedback you might have in the meantime – please do get in touch and I look forward to meeting you later in the year to all those that can make the Workshop.
 

Proposed Changes to the Fund

In 2019, we set out some proposals to change the Fund in response to demand and spend rising to unsustainable levels. Of the options discussed at the Workshop, restricting non-emergency awards to a lifetime award was taken forward to be worked up as a formal paper for the Council’s Executive.
 

This report was due to go the Council’s Executive in April, however, due to Covid-19, this was postponed and a new date will be arranged in the future. We will continue to provide updates on this as it progresses but for now, Neil and I have agreed to ‘park’ this proposal and will be looking to pick this back up around September time.
 

Change in account management of the scheme 

Lastly, I would like to mention on behalf of Family Fund Business Service, administrators of this Scheme, that Paul McAfee who has been in the position of account manager will be handing over this role to Helen Tillett. I know a few of you have had contact with Paul over the last couple of years. We will miss Paul’s contributions and endless enthusiasm for this programme – but are excited to work alongside Helen going forward, who has been closely involved in the Fund already. You can reach Helen on helen.tillett@familyfundservices.co.uk .

 

Enquiries:  nylaf@northyorks.gov.uk

Public information: https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/local-assistance-fund

Partner updates: www.nypartnerships.org.uk/nylaf