Help is out there – cost-of-living support in Bath & North East Somerset
The extent of support for Bath and North East Somerset residents struggling with the cost-of-living crisis over the past year has been revealed today – as the council launches additional one-off payment support with its Discretionary Crisis Fund.
Data from Bath & North East Somerset Council shows the council’s Welfare Support Team provided a total of £2.2 million in support for residents who needed help in 2022.
Financial support for debt, accommodation, household items and food was provided to 4,783 households, totalling more than £316,000.
Using the Household Support Fund (a grant provided by the Department for Work and Pensions), more than 9,000 households were supported with energy rebates and more than £900,000 was issued in free school meal vouchers for more than 4,000 children. The council distributed £297,000 to low-income Pensioner households, £400,000 to low income working-age households and £238,000 was provided to support Citizens Advice and Age UK B&NES in delivering energy support to households in fuel poverty.
The figures come as the council’s Welfare Support Team marks a decade of helping more than 23,500 families in financial crisis having distributed £3.7million of crisis support grant payments over the past ten years.
Additional support for B&NES residents struggling financially is available from the new Discretionary Fund which is a one-off payment to help with energy, bills, and other living costs.
To qualify residents must have a permanent B&NES address, be over 18 and on a low income, not have sufficient money to pay for essentials and not have savings over £2,000.
The council is using its allocation of the Department for Work and Pensions Household Support Fund to finance the scheme, which means that the number of awards that can be made are limited. Applications will be assessed in order of receipt.
Residents who think they qualify for the Discretionary crisis fund should visit https://beta.bathnes.gov.uk/apply-discretionary-crisis-fund
Anyone unable to access the online application form can request a paper copy or complete it over the phone by calling The Welfare Support Scheme on 01225 477277 (Option 1).
Residents across the area have also been supported by a wide range of partners working through the Community Wellbeing Hub.
During 2022-2023 Citizens Advice B&NES helped 5,746 people and dealt with 16,650 advice issues of which 70 per cent related to debt, benefits and utilities such as gas and electricity.
The Community Wellbeing Hub received 1,803 referrals during 2022-2023, distributed 278 help packs and worked with organisations to provide almost 50 warm spaces during the winter months.
In the same period, 497 people accessed the Village Agent service for support and advice. Village Agents link people with advice and support and operate in the parished areas of Bath & North East Somerset as well as Combe Down and Foxhill.
Council leader, Councillor Kevin Guy said: “The cost-of-living crisis unfortunately is still very much with us and the impact of rising interest rates mean many people will continue to see their budgets squeezed in coming months. These figures for the past year reflect the urgent and effective response that the council and our partners have made to the cost-of-living crisis, but also the depth of need out there. It is distressing that more and more people including working families and pensioners need help with the cost of living as a result of rising food prices and energy bills.
“Our message throughout this cost-of-living crisis is “help is out there”, and I would like to thank all our partners for their contributions to this work. The council is also proud that over the past 10 years it is stepped in to help those in need through the excellent work of our Welfare Support Team and I would like to thank all those staff who work so hard to help those most in need in our communities.
“We are extremely fortunate to have a strong network of supportive partners in B&NES including the foodbanks and food pantries, Citizens Advice B&NES, Bath Mind, Age UK B&NES, Village Agents, St. John’s Foundation and all the organisations involved in the Community Wellbeing Hub. Thank you to everyone involved in providing this crucial support.”
The Welfare Support Service was introduced by the council in April 2013 following the abolition of the Social Fund run by the Department for Work and Pensions.
The team provides discretionary support to households in emergency need including help with food, bills and household items. The team also played an important role during the Covid pandemic in supporting residents affected by lockdown, through administering the Test and Trace Support payment scheme.
For advice and support on the cost of living go to https://livewell.bathnes.gov.uk/cost-living-support/cost-living-support
Anyone in financial crisis and needing support with food, bills or household items can contact the welfare support team on 01225 477277 or email email@example.com