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Cost of living crisis: new website speeds up help for Britons facing hardship

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theguardian.com

With the cost of living crisis worsening, it is vital that those facing hardship can access financial help quickly.A new one-stop online platform that allows people in need to receive grants and other support from charities and local authorities claims it is massively speeding up the process – in some cases cutting the time it can take from several weeks or even months to only a few days.Founded in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, Lightning Reach has been running in beta mode since December and says that so far it has helped people get grants totalling more than £1m.With MPs this week warning that soaring energy bills will push millions of people into “unmanageable” debt, and the cost of housing, food and a number of other essentials shooting up, there will be many people falling into hardship who have never had to seek support before.However, some of the charitable organisations that give out grants have fairly antiquated systems – for example, many still use paper application forms that have to be returned by post – which can make the process long and laborious.Instead of requiring people to fill out paper forms and send them off along with ID, Lightning Reach’s grants portal, developed with partners including the Royal British Legion and London’s Lambeth council, allows those in financial distress to do it all online, including ID verification.It aims to match people to personalised support they may be eligible for based on their circumstances, and also allows them to use the information provided across multiple applications to different organisations.The platform says that individuals are in some cases able to receive hardship grant money within five days of applying.“It’s free, easy to use, accessible on a

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