Councils review support for residents struggling with cost of living crisis
Support for residents struggling with the cost of living crisis is back on the agenda for two Suffolk councils later this month – with further help planned for those in need.
Councillors at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils will hear how rising costs continue to take their toll on local communities, with both Sudbury Citizens Advice and Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice advising on record levels of debt issues, and how the councils’ Housing Solutions teams are working to help the increasing number of households at risk of homelessness.
A report going to the council’s joint overview and scrutiny later this month details the weight of the cost of living crisis on residents, but highlights the work the councils have done to support residents through the crisis.
This includes: the delivery of £100,000 to tenants through the household support fund, a reduction in council tax for low-income households and the awarding of over £150,000 to households struggling with the cost of their rent through Discretionary Housing Payments.
Additionally, while Mid Suffolk Citizens Advice and Sudbury Citizens Advice continue to receive high demand for their service, each has received a 30% uplift in funding to accommodate the demand.
Over 1,200 homelessness applications were received by Housing Solutions in 2022/23, with 627 in Babergh and 588 in Mid Suffolk. All applicants received advice and support to help prevent or relieve their homelessness and, in almost 300 cases, homelessness was successfully prevented. Financial support was also provided to 98 households through the homelessness prevention fund.
During winter, a total of £110,995 was provided to 62 organisations through Winter Warmth grants across Babergh and Mid Suffolk. This helped to provide warm spaces and reduce rural isolation over the winter months. Over 2,000 people attended these warm spaces during the winter.
Later this month, councillors will also hear plans for the next phase of support, which will go to both council’s cabinets for consideration next month.
Pending cabinet approval, future plans include using data to identify vulnerable households that aren’t aware or aren’t claiming help that they are entitled to, and building relationships with private landlords through council-run Central Suffolk Lettings so properties can be let at an affordable rate to homeless households.
Pilot schemes are also planned, such as: helping households in temporary and emergency accommodation get online through the distribution of free data SIM cards with support from the Good Things Foundation, and the trialling of a referral system with Anglian Water which would see households in receipt of council tax reduction referred for reduced water tariffs.
Cllr Alastair McCraw, Babergh District Council cabinet member for customers, digital transformation and improvement said:
“We know that many of our residents are feeling the bite of the cost of living crisis, but we are here to support our communities through the hardship.
“Help is available for those who need it and by working with our wide network of partners, we will continue to offer a range of support to help households however we can.”
Cllr Andy Mellen, Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member for performance and resilience said: “It’s important we offer the right support in the right way to those in need.
“By listening to our residents and community organisations and working with our local Citizens’ Advice Bureau, we can identify the specific issues and support residents through this crisis, together.”
The report goes before the joint overview and scrutiny on Monday, 21 August.