With petrol prices set to hit £2 a litre, food inflation predicted to reach a 20-year high of 11% this summer and gas and electricity bills rocketing, the UK is facing a cost of living crisis.
But Cardiff Council is overseeing the distribution of almost £2.2m worth of grants to ease the burden on those households in the city who are most in need.
The Council has been allocated the money as part of the Welsh Government’s £177m Cost of Living Support Scheme. Much of this is going towards a £150 payment to eligible households but £25m has also been set aside for a Discretionary Scheme. This allows local authorities to support households they consider in need of extra help with their living costs, and Cardiff Council’s share amounts to £2.193m.
A report on the Cost of Living Support Scheme will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet meeting on June 23 when members will be recommended to help the most vulnerable households in the city through this Discretionary Scheme.
Cllr Chris Weaver, the Cabinet member for finance, modernisation and performance, said: “It’s clear that everyone’s bills are rising at an unprecedented rate at the moment and we are looking to help anyone who feels unable to cope, whether you are on benefits or experiencing in-work poverty – please come and talk to us.
“We are all too aware of the cash crisis people are facing just from the huge increase in demand we are seeing on council services, with more and more people coming forward looking for help.
“Through the support schemes, we have paid 86% of eligible households in Cardiff – around 76,000 – the £150 payment. That amounts to everyone who had applied as of last Monday and everyone who didn’t need to apply because we already held their bank account details. But clearly there are other households which have yet to apply, despite receiving letters from us.
“We’ll be writing to them again and emphasising that we are turning around requests for payments within a week. The money is here for them, they just need to apply for it.”
Details on whether you qualify for the £150 are available here (Cost of living support payment(cardiff.gov.uk)) alongside information on how to apply.
At the moment, the £150 payment is being made to all households living in properties in council tax bands A-D, and those in band E who get a disability band reduction and any property receiving council tax reduction irrespective of their band. In Cardiff, these payments will total more than £13.3m.
The Discretionary Scheme allows councils to make payments to households who are not covered by the main scheme and to make additional payments or cover the cost of essential services, like energy bills or rent. It will be paid by two methods – one means-tested and other not means-tested.
Eligible groups not requiring means testing could include:
- People providing or receiving care
- Those with severe mental impairment
- Care leavers
The council is also planning to make means-tested payments to help people receiving benefits via these schemes and services:
- Discretionary Housing Payments – intended to help tenants struggling to pay their rents (proposed allocation – £700k)
- Applications via the Money Advice Team which supports residents who struggle with their finances, often recommending one-off payments to resolve issues (£700k)
- Fuel Voucher Scheme – gas and/or electricity vouchers for residents on prepayment meters struggling to pay their bills (£50k)
- Families affected by the Benefit Cap – a direct payment of £150 to help families with three or more children who are affected by the Cap (£205k)
- Free School Meals (FSM) – there are a maximum of 2,000 families in Cardiff in receipt of FSM who have not received the £150 payment (£300k)
- Adult Services – some clients are struggling with essential care costs. Payments are not to pay for care but to help with the rising cost of living (£50k)
If agreed by Cabinet, and to encourage take up of the Discretionary Scheme, the Council is planning a publicity campaign which will see information available at its Hubs, through its Adviceline (029 2087 1071) and the Money Advice Team, on social media and its website. Letters will also be sent to households receiving benefits.
“Using the Discretionary Scheme and targeting the payments in these ways should ensure those most in need receive the most help,” said Cllr Weaver. “We will also be investigating ways in which any money unspent in the main fund can be diverted into the discretionary scheme.”