Leader announces boost to multi-million-pound cost of living support package this winter

More details have been released of a multi-million-pound support package in Kent to help vulnerable residents, families and communities throughout the challenging winter months ahead.

Speaking at today’s full council meeting of Kent County Council (KCC) Leader, Roger Gough, outlined an extended package of investment that will help those most in need to access additional support, including help with energy and water costs and free school meal vouchers for eligible families.

The UK is undergoing a prolonged period of economic challenge as it has moved through the pandemic and is now facing a cost-of-living crisis which may be unsustainable for many.

Low-income households are disproportionally affected by the cost-of-living increases as they spend a larger proportion of their income on food and energy than average income households, thereby facing higher inflation.

KCC continues to work with partners to develop a comprehensive and nationally commended Financial Hardship programme to support people struggling with heating their homes and feeding their families throughout the coming months.

Woman looking in an empty kitchen cupboard

The ‘Kent Together’ approach was rapidly developed and adopted during the pandemic, seeing partners across the county coming together in a coordinated effort to deliver the right support in the right places. This strong and efficient network that includes the district, borough and parish councils, community and voluntary groups, the emergency services and the NHS, will remain a vitally important helpline and support service throughout the winter and the cost-of-living crisis.

Throughout the pandemic, via various Grant funding streams, the Government provided local authorities with the means to provide additional support to vulnerable residents. On 23 March 2022, an extension to the Household Support Fund was announced, which ran until the end of September 2022.

Today Roger Gough told members of the authority that a further £11.065m has now been allocated to Kent and will be utilised as follows;

  • £3.120m for Kent families with children who receive free school meals. Vouchers will once again be provided KCC not only over the forthcoming half-term break later this month but over Christmas, the Spring half-term and next Easter.
  • An additional £2.6m will also be used to issue eligible families with support towards energy bills, details of which will be announced soon.
  • Funding to District and Borough Councils for local schemes targeting needs in their local area
  • Support for countywide initiatives to help households with energy, food and water. Further information about this will be shared publicly in the coming weeks

Roger Gough said “I am keenly aware of the very real challenges that people are facing this winter, especially those on the lowest incomes. It’s vital that we do everything we can to alleviate some of the hardship and financial pressure the most vulnerable families are dealing with as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

“There is no doubt that the months ahead will not be easy for many people in Kent. I hope that our strong communities, our work with partners in every part of the county and our determination to support those most in need as best we can, will go some way to help many people get through these challenging times.

“I strongly urge anyone who is worried about paying their bills, heating their homes or feeding their families to ask for help and advice. Our Kent Together helpline, which offered so much advice and support to vulnerable residents through the pandemic, is still here and practical help really is at hand through a wide programme of support.

“We are all too aware of the impact that poverty can have on both physical and mental wellbeing. For that reason alone, we need to get this help and support out of the door and to those that need it the most.”

A number of services within KCC are already providing support where they can, to help people stay safe, healthy and well this winter:

Kent’s libraries provide open and warm spaces that offer a range of free services including books, activities, ICT, WiFi, e-books/e-magazines/enewspapers, and they are planning a promotional push because not everyone is aware of this offer. The county’s Libraries, Registration & Archives service can also offer spaces so that KCC services and partners wanting to reach people with advice or drop-in surgeries can host these in our libraries.

The Gypsy and Traveller Service is already carrying out a ‘winter preparedness’ campaign for all residents on its sites, highlighting risks and signposting to support and advice.

Our Public Protection team is dealing with a steady increase in scams aiming to exploit the cost-of-living crisis. The service is already seeing sophisticated scams targeting heating cost reduction, council/government financial support grants, fake employment opportunities, and cheap food – financially devastating to those who are caught out. Public Protection is monitoring and coordinating tactical campaigns with partners, and Trading Standards, Kent Scientific Services and Community Wardens will continue to share intelligence, take direct action, and warn and inform the public using our digital and social media channels.

The Kent Community Warden Service provides an essential lifeline for many of our residents. Our wardens are equipped with the knowledge of benefits available to help residents access support and can identify residents in hardship who would be eligible for council tax reductions and make the request on their behalf. They are also identifying and engaging with homeless individuals, helping them into accommodation, and working with District Council community hubs to help link eligible residents into Districts’ hardship funds or to energy/fuel poverty advisers.

Alongside our community services, KCC’s social care services (adults and children’s) will be working with vulnerable families many of whom will be at heightened risk of struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. It will be important that our social care and wider workforce who engage with service users and families directly are aware of the wider support and referral pathways that will be open to vulnerable residents so they can signpost them to the relevant agencies and support services.

For more information of the support available please visit KCC’s Kent Together information on our website by following this link https://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/protect-kent-and-medway/help-and-advice-for-residents/kent-together

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Leader announces boost to multi-million-pound cost of living support package this winter was last modified: November 9th, 2022 by Jo Godden