Cost of Living Project launch
This autumn, as the number of residents struggling to pay for food and housing continues to increase, we’re launching our Cost of Living Project in partnership with Wandsworth Borough Council. We’re grateful that the council understands the need to invest in advice services as part of their response to the cost of living crisis. This year the number of people local Citizens Advice offices are helping across England and Wales has hit unprecedented levels. Our national network is currently providing crisis support to 2 people every minute and projections show that this will continue to increase throughout 2022.
How the project will work
Our Cost of Living Project team will work alongside our core advice service, providing additional capacity that will allow us to respond quickly and ensure we can help residents facing immediate hardship due to financial issues. They’ll also offer advice and casework support that will help residents find long-term solutions through:
- Income maximisation, identifying entitlement to cost of living specific schemes, other benefits and non-statutory support.
- Reducing expenditure, advising about budgeting and energy efficiency, as well as referring for specialist debt advice.
- Resolving underlying issues, for instance the benefit cap or residents not getting the right level of disability benefits.
The team will take referrals directly from the council’s Cost of Living Hub as well as other council officers. All other partners can refer for cost of living advice through the main webform on our website and our Adviceline (0808 278 7833).
Amy has multiple, complex health conditions. She came to us after her gas and electricity were cut off. She was struggling to resolve issues with her utilities and pay for food, to the extent that she was faint with hunger during her initial visit. She was worried about returning to a flat without food, electricity or gas, but also being able to afford the cost of travelling for important medical treatment the next week. During her initial visit we contacted Amy’s energy supplier and helped her take the steps needed to restore her gas and electricity before the end of the day. We also issued her a supermarket voucher from our crisis fund so she wouldn’t go without food in the short-term and gave her a free SIM card that will provide her with data and minutes for the next 6 months. She was then referred to a cost of living adviser for immediate help paying for travel to hospital appointments and long-term support with increasing her income, reducing household costs and accessing non-financial support.
We know that being an effective advice service isn’t always enough, we can’t reach everyone and know that some people prefer to be supported by the groups and communities that they are already in touch with. For these reasons we share our resources and knowledge as widely as possible and our Cost of Living Project team will therefore:
- Work with the council on the design of their cost of living and discretionary support schemes.
- Offer cost of living focussed Advice First Aid training, with the support of our Crisis Project team, to local community and faith groups, voluntary organisations, council officers, councillors and other partners.
- Develop and share resources to help residents and partners with cost of living issues.
The team are already attending events organised by partners themed around cost of living. To talk to us about an event you are hosting please email contact us through our webform.