Successive Tory governments have claimed that employment is the best way out of financial strife. Yet research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that 61% of working-age adults in poverty live in a household where at least one adult is in work, and 11% of all workers live in a household in poverty. Millions more struggle to balance soaring costs.
Help isn’t always easy to find. Grants, local schemes and discounted tariffs are often poorly signposted or hidden on obscure websites with unclear qualification criteria.
But an innovative new platform wants to change this. Lightning Reach provides a one-stop portal for users to calculate what financial assistance they are eligible for, making it easy for people to find and apply for benefits and other help with household bills.
The platform has facilitated over £6 million in grants to individuals in need of financial assistance and registered over 60,000 users.
After hearing about the platform from a colleague, Nicole applied for – and received – a £500 grant.
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“I was getting really, really stressed about how I was going to pay,” she says. “It helped me get through that month and pay those bills.”
Lightning Reach is supported by Big Issue Invest (BII) – the investment arm of the Big Issue Group – and UnLtd: The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.
Working through their joint Growth Impact Fund, BII and UnLtd have invested £250,000 in the platform. The investment brings the fund’s total value to more than a million pounds.
“Lightning Reach platform has massive potential to support people experiencing financial hardship,” said Ben Tiplady, BII investment manager.
The service also assists those who are not in work – like Elizabeth, 62, and Michael, 79.
Michael was injured while serving in the Royal Navy and now suffers from severe tinnitus. The chronic condition has led to depression and prevented him from working. Elizabeth supports Michael, but lost her business during the pandemic.
Lightning Reach helped the couple overcome limited digital skills to successfully apply for a grant from the Royal British Legion.
“It was difficult at the beginning. I wasn’t very confident, it was the uploading of documents – I did not know how to get pictures from my phone onto the computer to then upload them,” Elizabeth says.
“I found it really easy once [Lighting Reach support team] talked me through it.”
The cost of living crisis shows no signs of abating. Around 13 million UK adults are struggling with bills, while nearly eight million people had to borrow money to pay for household energy costs in the first half of 2023.
But “help is out there”, says Nicole. “With what’s happening with the economy, it’s been a really hard time for a hell of a lot of people. People need to know where to go for support.”
For more information on Big Issue Invest and Lightning Reach, visit this page.