Cost of living campaign launched to help Swindon residents

Swindon Borough Council, Citizens Advice Swindon and Crosslight Advice have joined forces to launch a new campaign to help local residents mitigate the cost of living crisis.

Published: Wednesday, 25th May 2022

Cost of Living campaign

Although the Government is due to announce further support measures shortly, the campaign seeks to ensure Swindon residents who are struggling with living costs know where they can currently obtain support and how to check any state benefits they may be entitled to, as well as signposting wider information and advice to those that need it.

It has been estimated that £15bn in benefits go unclaimed each year. This includes 1.3m families who do not take up an offer of up to £2,000 a year for childcare costs, while it is estimated around 850,000 eligible households are missing out on Pension Credit worth an average of £1,900 a year.

The Council and Citizens Advice Swindon are urging residents to take 10 minutes to use one of the online benefits calculators to check if there are any benefits they could be claiming. Residents can get advice from Citizens Advice in person and can check the website for opening times, www.citizensadviceswindon.org.uk or by calling 0808 278 7813.

The campaign has pulled together a 16-point checklist for residents to help them tackle the rising cost of living.

 

 

  1. Check to make sure you’re not one of up to 7 million people in the UK missing out on income-related state benefits
  • An estimated £15bn of benefits are believed to go unclaimed each year
  • Use a free benefits calculator to find out what you could be entitled to
  • Or contact Citizens Advice Swindon (0808 278 7813) for one-to-one help to do this
  • If you are turned down for a benefit, seek advice on whether to challenge the decision. Many benefit decisions are overturned, and organisations like Citizens Advice can offer advice about challenges.
  1. If you’re over State Pension age check if you’re eligible for Pension Credit (0800 99 1234) which provides extra money for living costs and access to other help
  • Around a third of eligible pensioners don’t claim Pension Credit – often because they don't know they can or that they need to
  • Find out if you’re eligible and how much you could get using the Pension Credit calculator
  • People of State Pension age may be entitled to Pension Credit even though they may have modest savings, or a retirement income or own their own home
  • An award of Pension Credit can provide access to a range of other benefits such as help with housing costs, council tax, heating bills and for those aged 75 or over, a free TV licence
  1. Over one million families are missing out on up to £2,000 a year towards childcare costs - check what help you could get
  • Use this calculator to find out how much you could get towards approved childcare, including:
  • free childcare for children aged between two and four
  • help with childcare costs if your child is under 16 (or under 17 and disabled)
  1. If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn't cover all of your rent, check to see if you can make a claim for a discretionary housing payment.
  2. Swindon residents of working age who claim means-tested benefits, such as Universal Credit or employment and support allowance, may be eligible to apply for Council Tax Support.
  • This could pay up to 80 per cent of your Council Tax bill or 100 per cent if you receive certain disability benefits. If you’re on a low income and over state retirement age, you could also be eligible for 100 per cent support.
  1. Check if you or your family may be entitled to benefits for those experiencing

illness or disability.

  1. If you are a carer, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance and/or an extra amount called the ‘carer element’ within Universal Credit. This could mean £69.70 a week in Carer’s Allowance if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week and you, the person you care for and the type of care you provide meets the criteria.
  2. Get free and impartial energy saving advice from Warm & Safe Wiltshire (0800 038 5722) to help manage energy costs and keep your home warm.
  3. Contact your energy supplier if you are struggling to pay for energy or think you may get into difficulty – if you already have energy debts, some larger suppliers offer grants to help pay this off 
  • If you can’t get a grant from your supplier, check if you can get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust. These grants are available to anyone - you don’t have to be a British Gas customer.
  1. Contact Swindon Citizens Advice (0808 278 7813) if you’re struggling to afford enough food to discuss options which could include a referral to the food bank in Swindon.
  2. If you're at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old, you might be able to get free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk.
  3. If you or your child receive certain benefits, you can apply to the Council for free school meals from Year 3 and above.
  4. Check if your child is eligible for free holiday provision through the Holiday Activities and Food Programme running in the summer and Christmas holidays.
  5. If you’re in debt, seek advice early rather than let things spiral out of control. Contact Citizens Advice Swindon (0808 278 7813), StepChange (0800 138 1111), National Debtline (0808 808 4000) or Crosslight Advice (020 7052 0318) for help.
  6. Households earning below £16,480 can apply for a 50 per cent discount on their water bill through Thames Water’s WaterHelp scheme or call their Extra Care Services Team on 0800 009 3652.
  7. The Council’s Emergency Assistance Fund provides emergency assistance to Swindon residents who most need it.

The most recent government figures (2019) show that almost one in 10 families (9,402) in Swindon are in fuel poverty, while almost 30,000 households received £1.5m worth of support between October 2021 and March 2022 to help with the cost of heating and food, administered by the Council through the Household Support Fund.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health Inequalities and Housing, said: “Please use this information to check whether you’re eligible for any unclaimed state benefits, as well as seeking expert support from Citizens Advice Swindon, Crosslight Advice and other organisations who can advise and help you.

“It’s hugely stressful if you’re struggling to pay your bills, or if you’re already in debt, so please contact them as soon as possible to get help and advice. You might find you’re one of the 1.3M people who is entitled to claim childcare costs, or you could be eligible for Pension Credit or income-related state benefits. There are experts available who will support and guide you to access help, which could include financial help.”

Claire Newport, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Swindon, said: “Demand for our service is continuing to rise as the cost of living crisis starts to bite; soaring energy bills and rising food prices are seeing many families struggling to keep up with everyday costs. Levels of personal debt are increasing, and we are referring more and more people for foodbank support or help from their energy suppliers. We want to encourage people to seek advice now rather than letting things spiral out of control.

“Our advisers are on hand to help identify ways to maximise your income; a simple benefits check could result in vital additional income for many people. If you are already in receipt of benefits we would encourage you to seek advice to check on further entitlement before making any changes, in particular, residents should be especially careful if they are in receipt of existing benefits, as moving to Universal Credit could, in some cases, result in them being worse off.”

Amy Williams, Swindon Branch Manager of Crosslight Advice, said: “The rising cost of living is having a devastating effect on many households, with some struggling to even afford food or pay their essential bills. As a result, more people than ever before are finding themselves in debt – at Crosslight Advice, demand for our service has risen by over 60 per cent.

“These are really tough times, and trying to make ends meet or deal with debt can be incredibly stressful and worrying. Crosslight Advice exists to provide advice and support to anyone living under the burden of problem debt, as well as offering money education and budget coaching to help people navigate the current crisis.”

Citizens Advice Swindon is looking for help to understand the impact of the cost of living increases in Swindon. By completing this short survey open until 17 June, residents can help to build a realistic picture of how the community is being affected by the sudden rise in everyday costs. The survey is also available at www.citizensadviceswindon.org.uk and should take no more than five minutes to complete and answers will be anonymous.

Further information is available at www.swindon.gov.uk/costofliving

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