Council continues to provide support during cost-of-living crisis
Wiltshire Council is reminding residents that it continues to provide support to people during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
As the nights draw in and with colder weather on the horizon, Wiltshire Council is reminding residents that it continues to provide support to people during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
Although energy prices have dropped slightly, and inflation has reduced, both remain much higher than in previous 'standard' years, and with interest rates continuing to be unpredictable, this will undoubtedly put financial pressure on people throughout the county.
Wiltshire Council has a range of support available to help make things a little easier and to provide support and advice to those who need it, including:
- Wiltshire libraries continuing as warm spaces
- Warm & Safe Wiltshire in place to help people live in warmer, safer and healthier homes
- an updated interactive guide to help people find key support
- Household Support Fund to directly financially support a range of programmes and initiatives
- a range of online support and sign-posting information on topics including council tax/benefits, energy advice and mental health support
- area boards continuing to look at way to support their local community projects
- a dedicated Wiltshire Wellbeing support line to provide advice and guidance
- the council's FUEL programme to continue this winter
- cheaper bus fares continue until December 2024
Wiltshire Council's libraries continue to be there for people who need them, providing anyone with a warm and friendly welcome. The council is working with Warm & Safe Wiltshire and The Rural Communities Energy Support Network to assist residents seeking basic energy advice and make referrals to experienced energy advisors in all but its smallest libraries. Free warm packs will be available for those who need them. Working with local community partners to reach the most vulnerable, libraries will all be offering an enhanced offer of heated throws and radiator reflectors. More than 1,400 warm packs were provided to people last winter. All libraries can signpost people to community partners and agencies that can support people through the rising cost of living. Wiltshire Libraries are also working with the Good Things Foundation to distribute free SIMs and mobile data at Chippenham, Devizes, Salisbury, Trowbridge and Warminster libraries to people who are 18+ years old and from a low-income household. The Good Things Foundation: National Databank is supported by UK mobile networks including Vodafone, O2 and Three. More information can be found at Libraries news updates.
Warm & Safe Wilshire, provided by the council in partnership with Swindon Borough Council and the Centre for Sustainable Energy, is a service to help residents live in warmer, safer and healthier homes. It provides in-depth telephone, home visit and outreach support to people and communities covering a wide package of support: including energy bills, energy saving tips, energy saving vouchers, and funding for heating and insulation improvements in their homes. More information is available at Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE): Warm & Safe Wiltshire.
In 2021, Wiltshire Council set up an interactive directory so people could easily find local food providers and warm spaces near to them at just a few clicks of a mouse. The council has engaged with local groups once again to establish what support is still available in the county and the guide has been updated. It can be found at Interactive Community Directory - find out where local warm spaces and community food providers are in the county.
Wiltshire Council also continues to work in partnership with a number of local organisations to distribute £5.4m in round four of the Household Support Fund from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The Household Support Fund is in place to support households that would otherwise struggle to buy food, pay essential utility bills or meet other essential living costs during the current cost-of-living challenges. The expectation is that the Fund should be used to support households in the most need; particularly those who may not be eligible for the other government support but who are nevertheless in need. The fund can support a wide range of low-income households, including families with children of all ages, pensioners, unpaid carers, care leavers, and disabled people who have had adaptations to their home and incur higher energy bills as a result. Wiltshire Council has also identified that support is required for the homeless/rough sleepers, Gypsy, Roma, Traveller and Boater Community. A number of projects are underway working with such partners including Age UK, FearFree, local housing associations and Wiltshire Community Foundation. More information can be found at Household Support Fund (HSF).
The council's area boards will also continue to be valuable networks and links to the community and in a position to assess local provision and that it's accessible for those who need it.
The council's Wiltshire Wellbeing Hub continues to be in place to provide information and advice. The hub was originally set-up during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide information and advice. Anyone can access the hub and it can provide confidential advice, information, and signposting from the council's friendly team in relation to the current high cost of living. People can call the hub Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm and Friday from 9am to 4pm on 0300 003 4576 or email email@example.com. The opening hours will continue to be regularly reviewed depending on what the demand is for the service.
Following a successful summer programme that saw more than 1,220 young people take part, Wiltshire Council's Holiday Activity and Food programme (FUEL) will be back during the Christmas school holidays. It is funded by the Department for Education and provides children who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals with free access to activity, food and nutritional education during school holidays. The programme in Wiltshire has supported more than 10,000 children, since launching in 2021. eligible families will be able to sign up later in the year and details will be promoted through all schools in Wiltshire in due course. More information about FUEL can be found at FUEL Programme.
The government has also recently announced that it is keeping the £2 bus fare cap in place until the end of December 2024, meaning people can continue to enjoy cheap and convenient journeys on local bus services. This allows Wiltshire bus users the opportunity to travel on most routes in the county for just £2 or less for a single fare. More information can be found at Connecting Wiltshire - Wiltshire connect.
Wiltshire Council Leader, Cllr Richard Clewer, said:
"We know that some people will be struggling with the continued cost-of-living crisis, particularly as we head towards winter, and that's why we're ensuring that those who need it know where to turn for support. The national financial picture is still rather uncertain, but we'll continue to keep an eye on the situation and do what we can to help ease that pressure some will be feeling.
"From offering support through our friendly library service, providing expert advice and signposting through our Wellbeing Hub, or supporting local projects through the Household Support Fund - we'll be there for those who need us."
A range of support, advice and guidance can be found at cost-of-living support webpages.