The cost of living is affecting us all. Rising inflation and energy prices are hitting households hard, adding substantial amounts to our annual bills.
The BBC reports today that prices for food, energy and fuel are continuing to rise at their fastest rate for 40 years, with Office for National Statistics data indicating that UK inflation is now up to 9.1 per cent in the 12 months to May.
The government has said that its £200 energy rebate in October will be doubled to £400, and will no longer have to be repaid. And that a £650, paid in two lump sums, will be available to support the country’s most vulnerable people in receipt of means-tested benefits. You can read more about that on the government’s website.
Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert, has also published a helpful ‘Cost of living crisis survival guide’ on his website signposting to available support.
Supporting Devon residents
We’ve published some helpful information and guidance on our website, to help people in Devon who are struggling to meet the rising costs of living.
Household Support Fund
We’ve been allocated around £5 million by the government to support low income families. It’s a scheme called the Household Support Fund and it runs until September 2022.
Its purpose is to provide rapid short-term financial support to households who may be struggling to afford to pay for their energy, water, food or other essential items.
Because it’s the government’s money, there are conditions on how it can be allocated. At least a third of it must support households in which there are children or young people; at least another third must also support households that include people of state pensionable age; and the rest can be used to support other vulnerable households who are struggling to pay for food, energy, water and other essential bills.
We’re working with Citizen’s Advice Devon.
We’re using some of the funding available to work with Citizen’s Advice Devon to manage an Energy Relief Scheme for people using pre-payment meters and who are struggling to meet their energy needs. Pre-payment meters are often used by people on lower incomes as a way to help them budget, but they can result in people paying more for their energy requirements.
If you are struggling with bills or worried about debt, you don’t need to struggle alone. You can get advice from Citizens Advice online, over the phone, or by contacting your local Citizens Advice office.
Has your income changed?
If your family income has changed and you are struggling to pay food bills, we encourage you to check your eligibility and apply for free school meals.
All children in reception, year 1 and year 2 at state schools in England automatically get free school meals. From year 3 onwards, children whose parents are receiving any of a range of benefits are entitled to free school meals during term time.
Support with meals during the school holidays
Families eligible for benefits-related free school meals will also receive supermarket vouchers to help pay for their food shopping at a range of supermarkets for six weeks over the summer holidays.
Parents and carers of children currently receiving benefits-related free school meals have been sent a letter or email with information about how to access their vouchers.
Please get in touch with our free school meals team if you’re are expecting to receive one but don’t. You can email them at email@example.com or call our education helpline on 0345 155 1019.
Free holiday activities and meals this Summer
Children aged five to 16 years old who are eligible for benefits-related free school meals are also invited to take up an action-packed summer holiday this year, as part of our Holiday Activities and Food programme.
It’s to provide free physical activities and healthy, nutritional, hot meals during the school holidays.
We have 40,000 places available over four weeks during the summer holidays, including a range of sports and coaching opportunities, indoor and outdoor play activities; outings to local parks and beaches; magic and circus skills; film making; arts and crafts; music; cooking; theatre workshops; yoga and mindfulness; and a lot more!
For a list of the activities available, where and when, please visit our Holiday Activities and Food programme website.
Healthy Start Scheme
If you’re more than ten weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old, and receive certain benefits, you may be entitled to get help to buy healthy food and milk.
If you’re eligible, you’ll be sent a Healthy Start card with money added every four weeks that you can use in some UK shops.
You can use your card to buy cow’s milk; fresh, frozen, and tinned fruit and vegetables; fresh, dried, and tinned pulses and infant formula milk based on cow’s milk.
You can also use your card to collect Healthy Start vitamins to support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and vitamin drops for babies and young children – suitable from birth to four years old.
Helping you save on household energy bills
If you have a household income of less than £30,000 a year, you may be eligible for free energy efficiency improvements to your home worth thousands of pounds, which is better for the environment and your pocket.