National cost of living crisis: £8 million of new funding

Councillor Craig Cheney is pictured, smiling.
Today’s guest blog is from Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor for Finance, Governance, Performance, and Culture, and Labour councillor for Hillfields ward.

Significant pressures remain for many households across Bristol, in particular our city’s most vulnerable residents and families, with no sign of the national cost of living crisis slowing down or coming to an end.

The support from national government has been lacking but we’ve worked hard to target supported funding that we have received to help those most in need.

Our Household Support Fund has been instrumental in Bristol’s response to the national cost of living crisis, so we welcomed the news that we were receiving an additional £8 million for this financial year. This time the funding is for a whole year as opposed to previous versions which have been for six months only.

Despite the warmer weather and lighter evenings prompting people to switch off their heating and use less electricity, prices are still very high and support for households facing the most impact is still sought after.

Last year, the Household Support Fund provided much needed support to over 90,000 households. This included almost 23,000 children and young people being given Free School Meal vouchers during school holidays and funding to over 10,000 low-income pensioners in receipt of Council Tax Reduction to support with energy costs. Money was also allocated to care leavers, foster households, Feeding Bristol, Red Cross, Age UK, and the Centre for Sustainable Energy.

There are many people who fall through the gaps and are unfortunately not eligible. We used some of the money last year to top up our £1.4 million Local Crisis Prevention Fund, enabling us to provide a total of around 10,000 households with emergency payments, over 2,600 of these were through our Household Support Fund.

Additional help included the Mayor’s budget provides support to almost 33,000 households with up to 100 per cent off their council tax bills through our £41.3 million Council Tax Reduction Scheme. 105 Welcoming Spaces were also opened across our city during the winter months, working with local communities and the voluntary sector. They were designed to provide a warm welcome and bring people together through community meals, film nights, and a wide range of other activities available to everyone.

The spend for this year’s Household Support Fund has now been approved by Cabinet and will provide:

  • Free School Meal Vouchers to approximately 22,600 young people for all school holidays from May 2023 half term to February 2024 half term
  • Targeted support to those with No Resource to Public Funds (including Refugee and Asylum Seeker households known directly to us)
  • Targeted support to care leavers and foster households to assist with their food and heating costs
  • Support for 1,100 low-income households via Discretionary Housing Payments
  • Help to around 4,000 low-income households in need through the Local Crisis Prevention Fund who are not eligible for the other payments outlined above

Similar to last year, money is also being allocated to some local support organisations, including Bristol Age UK, Feeding Bristol, Centre for Sustainable Energy and WECIL to help them to continue to provide essential support.

Earlier this year, the government provided us with funding to assist around 13,500 households already receiving partial Council Tax Reduction, allowing us to deduct up to £75 from their remaining council tax bills. This new allocation for the Household Support Fund will enable us to extend this offer for pensioners with up to an additional £25 being taken off remaining bills.

There is no application process for our Household Support Fund and we, or one of the associated charities also distributing funds, will contact people directly if they’re eligible. If you are not eligible and need financial support there is other help available through our Local Crisis Prevention Fund or Discretionary Housing Payments.

For cost of living advice and signposting please visit the Bristol City Council website or call the We Are Bristol helpline for free on 0800 694 0184, Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm.