AS families continue to struggle to balance their budgets Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council is looking to get people into the habit of using credit unions instead of payday lenders.

And the authority is planning how best to use £1.26m of government funding to help prevent people falling deeper into poverty.

The council’s cabinet committee approved plans to change the way they distribute money from the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) and Discretionary Social Fund (DSF), which is funded through the Department of Work and Pensions.

Amongst the initiatives were plans to assist the Redcar and Cleveland Money Tree and GLEN Credit Union to become sustainable and give them a town centre presence to help people manage their finances.

Councillor Lynne Pallister, the cabinet member for housing and neighbourhood renewal, said: “We have a lot of working poor in our communities and they are struggling, so we are going to at using the discretionary social fund to help them out.

“There will be a credit union shop opening up in Redcar to show people that there is an alternative to payday lenders and loan sharks.”

The cabinet heard how by the end of the 2013/14 financial year the total DHP resources of £455,000 had been spend helping families to stay in their homes or to move into smaller properties due to Welfare Reforms which saw the introduction of the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’.

The council received 2,313 applications and made 920 eligible awards to desperate families.

Coun Pallister added: “We haven’t got enough money to offer all the families the support they need. We have a little bit more money now and we want to help more people.”

And Councillor Steve Goldswain, the cabinet member for community safety, called on the authority to give out more information about foodbanks in the area after telling of one woman who walked from her home in east Cleveland to Redcar to pick up a food parcel.

He said: “I think we have taken massive strides in the right direction and we have got to keep moving now. It’s the fact that people don’t know what is available and we have got to take steps to make sure people know where the food banks are and how they can access them.”