This section highlights how councils are working with local partners to develop support schemes for residents struggling with the rise in the cost of living.
Barnsley Council has worked closely with their voluntary and community sector to deliver the Household Support Fund and have allocated some of the funding directly to community organisations who are developing sustainable approaches to the rising cost of living.
Bath and North East Somerset Council are continuing to mobilise their cross-partner Community Wellbeing Hub to support the most vulnerable residents, most recently addressing the pressures created by the cost of living crisis.
From March 2022, the Bristol City Council Neighbourhood and Communities service have convened staff from across the Council to understand the potential impacts of the rising cost of living on individuals and communities.
As a result of the pandemic and the financial difficulties being experienced by many, the government provided local authorities with grants to distribute to those most in need. Buckinghamshire Council set up a Helping Hand service to help administer the funds, working with partners in the voluntary and community sector to reach those really struggling.
Coventry City Council is working in partnership with community and voluntary sector organisations to design 'One Coventry Cost of Living training'. The training is aimed at all staff and volunteers working on the frontline across the city, including within communities where they have trusted relationships and may be best placed to identify when someone is struggling. This training aims to equip as many frontline workers and volunteers as possible with the right information to connect residents to the support they need as quickly as possible. This coordinated approach will ensure residents are given consistent information, whilst empowering all frontline staff and volunteers to have the confidence to have an open conversation, provide accurate information and advice to those in need.
Early conversations with partners across Coventry highlighted the need for a centralised hub of information and guidance on support available to people, to help with the Cost-of-Living crisis. This resulted in the creation of the Cost of Living and Wellbeing Support webpages. The hub is hosted by Coventry City Council, however, partners link to the website whilst the site itself refers to partner sites. This ensures there is a consistent and readily updated resource available for residents and businesses in the city.
The council can monitor analytics from the information hub regarding trends in relation to demand. The information hub is compatible with ReachDeck to ensure it is as accessible as possible for residents. The hub also includes interactive maps where possible, to ensure people can find what support they need quickly. Categories on the hub include:
- Running out of money
- Struggling to pay rent
- Help with Council Tax
- Support if you are struggling
- Support for your school
In response to the growing pressures residents in Hertfordshire are facing, Hertfordshire County Council has established a ‘Cost of Living Taskforce’ which brings together representation from various service areas to coordinate how the organisation is supporting residents.
Kent County Council have worked to strengthen referrals across Kent for those in financial hardship to mitigate the action of signposting. ‘ReferKent’ has been introduced, which is an online platform that allows a simple, easy, and secure referrals to be made by organisations to one another. Supporting this, the Money Advice Network has also been implemented and gives the council the ability to directly refer to them.
Southwark Council partners with the Money Adviser Network, referring customers mainly for rent or council tax arrears. This provides immediate assistance, while building a picture of who in the borough is in particular need and plan support for the future.
The Worrying About Money tool is an initiative of the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) and was co-produced in conjunction with, Public Health Southwark, Citizens Advice, and a variety of other VCS partners. The online tool, that is also available as a downloadable leaflet, is available in multiple languages and has been co-designed as a simple and easy to use resource for people facing financial crisis, and those supporting them, to quickly see what advice and cash first support options are available in the local area.
The aim is to reduce the need for emergency food aid, and the impact of the cost of living crisis, by helping people access any existing financial entitlements and advice on income maximisation.
A launch event was held in November 2021 where partners presented on the development of the leaflet and the various services available through it. To further develop use of the leaflet, Southwark Council public health team funded Citizens Advice to train local frontline advice workers on how to best utilize the tool. Training materials were created in consultation with IFAN and Citizens Advice services in Scotland, who were already running their own ‘train the trainer courses’. To date, Citizens Advice have delivered six training sessions on the Worrying About Money leaflets to around 100 local frontline workers.
Partners have been careful to ensure the information contained in the training and tool is kept up to date as further financial support is announced at a national level to help with the cost of living crisis.
Tower Hamlets Council worked with the Tower Hamlets Community Advice Network to launch a borough-wide referral system which links residents with a wide variety of local advice and support services.
One Maldon District, a senior level partnership comprising of local statutory, voluntary and private sector organisations, have created a Community Services Guide to support residents through cost of living.
The community guide provides key information and support on health and wellbeing, energy saving tips, financial support and community groups that can help residents in the local area. In addition to the Community Services Guide, a leaflet has been created to help signpost residents to different resources, groups and organisations that can help. Resources are available online and physical copies have already been sent to over 1,000 residents.
For more information contact: Joshua Fulcher [email protected]
Maldon District Council worked with partners including Maldon & District Community and Voluntary Service to offer their local community an extensive storage container filled with household essentials.
In July 2022 Merton Council ran a series of cost of living support events held at local libraries for residents concerned about rising living costs.
The council were joined by local partners to offer residents general advice and sign posting to organisations that are able to offer specialist one-on-one support. A selection of stallholders attended including Citizens Advice, Springfield Advice and Law Centre, DWP Job Centre, Wimbledon Guild, Croydon Plus Credit Union, Age UK Merton, Money and Pensions Service, Housing Advice, Thinking Works, Barclays Bank and Welfare Benefits.
All residents that attended were offered a £10 supermarket voucher that can be redeemed at locally to support the food economy and system in the borough.
Active Inclusion Newcastle is a partnership approach developed as part of the Newcastle City Council 2013-16 budget setting process. It responds to the growth in demand for financial inclusion and homelessness prevention information, advice and support in the context of reduced funding. The service provides support for professionals, volunteers and Councillors who want to support Newcastle residents with housing, financial inclusion, and employment. As part of the service, the Council offers a free consultancy phone line for professionals, volunteers and Councillors to use, where they can seek advice from a specialist on debt, employment, or welfare rights.
Norfolk Council’s Welfare Rights Team, Money Support Service and Norfolk Assistance Scheme work together to help those in financial need.
Norfolk County Council has allocated a sum of their Household Support Fund to Norfolk Community Foundation, a charity dedicated to building stronger communities and improving the lives of people in Norfolk. Due to the charity’s connections with vulnerable households that are not connected to statutory, council-owned support, it was decided that this method of distribution would result in more people getting the support that they needed.
The Foundation was able to deliver £1 million in food and fuel aid to over 10,000 vulnerable households via grassroots voluntary groups, charities and social enterprises that operate in the community. It drew upon well-established relationships with hundreds of trusted, hyper-local VCSE partners to get the funding quickly and responsibly to many households that weren’t previously known to the council.
The Foundation’s in-depth community knowledge gave rise to creative solutions to maximise impact. For example, community supermarkets (which offer highly discounted food to vulnerable clients) used the £50-per-household payment to top up members’ accounts, allowing households to spend their credit on healthy and nutritious food.
Nottinghamshire County Council have created a Yammer community to enable employees to share information on cost of living support that is available for service users.
Plymouth have created a new multi-agency task force to coordinate a city-wide effort to provide support for residents impacted by the rising cost of living.
The task force, instigated by Councillor Rebecca Smith, Cabinet member for Homes and Communities, includes Plymouth’s Director of Public Health, Ruth Harrell and representatives from key agencies across the city.
The rising cost of living is an issue that is affecting many families, and we know it is a worrying time. There’s a lot of good work happening in Plymouth from organisations who provide advice and support, as well as practical help.
Councillor Rebecca Smith, Cabinet member for Homes and Communities
Plymouth city has committed to a joined up approach to tackle many of its challenges, as signalled by the Plymouth Plan.
Examples of initiatives to support residents include:
- wellbeing hubs (which offer debt and employment advice, mental health support, volunteer opportunities and signposting to other health services, voluntary and community sector activities)
- Plymouth Energy Community who offer advice and support to households struggling with fuel bills or poorly heated homes as well as signpost people to potential grants.
- Food Plymouth, and the Plymouth Food Aid Network work with partners to help people access food-related support such as food banks, food vouchers and eligibility for free school meals and other schemes.
- an online hub with information about a wide range of support available www.plymouthonlinedirectory.com/costoflivingsupport.
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has responded proactively to the rising cost of living by leading an impactful campaign with community partners, highlighting the support that can help those struggling to cope to hopefully avoid the need for crisis support.
Spelthorne Borough Council provides grant funding to Citizens Advice Runnymede & Spelthorne for a Core Advice Service and dedicated Spelthorne case worker.
Frustrated at the rising numbers of vulnerable people struggling to access homes and support that met their needs, the Somerset Strategic Housing Group decided they needed to crack the problem.
For St Helens Borough Council, research had shown fuel and food poverty was going to be a big issue for the borough. A Cost of Living Action Group was set up with partners to identify where support was needed to be targeted and how they could work together to support those in need. The council with partners, have set up a network of warm spaces for residents, support sessions and supported food banks in the community through generous donations and fundraising.
Stoke City Council, alongside local voluntary and community sector (VCS) and other public sector partners, are focusing on working together and taking a proactive approach to mobilising support to ensure residents and businesses have access to as much support as possible as much support during this difficult time.
Surrey County Council has worked in creative and proactive ways to develop a strong partnership with the Community Foundation for Surrey to ensure resources are used in the best way, duplication is avoided, respective strengths are utilised and ultimately benefits for Surrey’s communities are maximised.
Cost of living hub
Councils and local partners have delivered remarkable services and support to protect their residents against higher costs, targeting help at those facing the most complex challenges. This hub is designed to share best practice and help councils support their residents through this difficult time.