UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


IIPP MPA students design new financial crisis support service for Hackney residents

5 December 2022

The London Borough of Hackney’s new Money Hub aims to increase Hackney residents’ incomes by £1 million to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and prevent homelessness.

Hackney Central station entrance at Graham Road

A 2021-2022 UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) Master of Public Administration (MPA) student placement with Hackney Council has led to the development of a new service, the Hackney Money Hub, to help the most vulnerable in the borough get the financial support they need.  

Four MPA students - Isadora Spillman-Schappell, Esteban Alvarez Diaz, Eliza Baring and Mathide Aurelie - did a placement with Hackney Council’s 'Here to Help' service. Here to Help exists to support the Council and its health partners to design and deliver preventative and early intervention models. Hackney has offered placement to MPA students for the last three years. 

Placements are a unique opportunity for students to use learnings from IIPP’s MPA course to help solve a real problem faced by a partner organisation. Students collaborate with pioneering members of IIPP’s Mission-Oriented Innovation Network (MOIN) to apply IIPP’s thinking and approaches in live contexts to drive innovation to meet pressing challenges.  

MPA Placement 

Considering the rising cost-of-living and housing crisis in the borough, MPA students investigated how the Council could deliver on its recently adopted Poverty Reduction Framework, to deliver on better financial support for residents in need.  

They conducted an eight-week co-design project, following the double diamond design process. The students held more than 40 research and co-design sessions with council staff, external partners and residents. As well as learning from the wealth of experience in Hackney, they considered best practice from across the sector, understanding more about income maximisation approaches in other local authorities and housing associations.  

Their proposed response was to streamline the Council’s existing Local Welfare Assistance funds, making it easier for residents to find and access these vital crisis support funds, and quicker and more efficient for staff to process claims.   

The team’s co-design approach recommended a single point of access for all discretionary funds, and the creation of one centralised team who would not only process claims to these funds, but also use the opportunity to ensure applicants are claiming all benefits they are entitled to, as well as accessing holistic support beyond just finances.  

Hackney Money Hub 

In November 2022, the Hackney Money Hub was launched, a partnership between Hackney Council and the local Integrated Care Board.  This new service goes beyond traditional local authority approaches to processing crisis funds, and focuses on acting as advocates for residents, providing holistic financial, housing and wellbeing support.  

Initiated through the Council’s Poverty Reduction Framework, the new service will administer Hackney’s local welfare assistance funds and will disburse £800,000 of cost of living funds to residents most in need in its first six months. Rather than just sitting in Council offices, the team of 12 staff will work across Hackney, running surgeries in health settings, schools, community groups and libraries.  

It will also use data to identify and proactively target those the Council knows are missing out on benefits they are entitled to. Using Policy in Practice’s LIFT dashboard, the team can see that Hackney residents miss out on £28 million a year in unclaimed benefits. The team is working towards a target of increasing Hackney residents’ incomes by £1 million in its first year of operating.  

The Hub will work with Council teams, health and education partners, and the community groups on the ground, as part of Hackney’s systemwide approach to tackling the cost of living crisis.  

Mariana Mazzucato, Founding Director of IIPP, said: “I founded IIPP and the MPA in Innovation, Public Policy and Public Value to have a real impact in the world through practice-based theorising. I am thrilled that through their placement with Hackney Council, students were able to apply what they learned in the MPA to help residents in need.”  
Philip Glanville, Labour and Cooperative Mayor of Hackney, said: “Hackney's most vulnerable residents need help now more than ever. The cost-of-living crisis is affecting us all - but it is felt most painfully by those who have sadly needed support for years. Hackney Council wants to do all it can to help, but we frustratingly also have limited means available. That is why I am pleased working in partnership with the local NHS we have set up a fund to help residents and have already increased incomes by over £35,000, and distributed a further £35,000 in grants, to those most in need. We know it is only through working together will we make Hackney a fairer, healthier, and safer place for our residents to call home.” 


Isadora Spillman-Schappell at IIPP - isadora.spillman-schappell.21@ucl.ac.uk  

Joshua Naisbitt at the London Borough of Hackney - joshua.naisbitt@hackney.gov.uk