RESIDENTS in need of financial support are being ‘supported’ by a local assistance fund according to a study commissioned by a local authority.

North Yorkshire County Council said their North Yorkshire ‘Local Assistance Fund’ had managed to help residents overcome financial emergencies, which would have otherwise forced them to move out of the county.

A study, conducted by NWA Social and Market Research, found that the fund was the ‘only viable’ short-term response to a financial crisis other than turning to a high-interest loans company.

The report also found that ‘relatively small’ sums of the fund were having significant effects on the wellbeing of those in receipt of the fund.

Councillor David Chance, executive member for the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund, said: “Supporting those in need is one of the most important things we can do as a council. Experiencing a financial crisis caused by events such as a boiler or fridge breaking down can tip many people into a spiral of debt which can be difficult to recover from.

“It is clear the Local Assistance Fund is providing vital assistance in preventing adults and children in the county from experiencing hardships such as homelessness or hunger and the impact these kinds of hardships have on mental health and wellbeing.”

The council claims it is one of just several local authorities in England which still invests a similar amount, which had been allocated to the fund, when it was first-set up in 2013.

The fund is provided ‘in-kind’, which means the grant is administered in the form of vouchers or essential items.

The council said, spending the fund in this way, meant it would relieve the pressures of paying for unexpected household repairs and new items of clothes.

The report said many, in receipt, had feared homelessness or a family break-up, and the fund had provided a short-term relief.

Applications to the fund, can only be made through agencies that work with those in ‘vulnerable groups.’

The council said it is only open to those over the age of 16 living within the county, and in receipt of a means-tested benefit.

The council said the fund was also open to those on a ‘low income threshold’ of less than £16,105 per year.