Even though energy prices have fallen in recent months, an energy crisis still looms this winter. National Energy Action estimates 6.3 million households are in fuel poverty across the UK, meaning they’re essentially unable to heat their home at a reasonable cost.
What are the government and local authorities doing to help those people and households most in need?
Energy cap and discounts relieve some of the pressure
The Energy Price Guarantee will still keep costs from soaring out of control, limiting the average household annual bill to £1,923 from October 2023 to December 2023.
And lower-income households still have other top ups and schemes available. Including The Warm Home Discount, giving them a one-off discount of £150 on their electricity bill.
There’s also The Winter Fuel Payment of between £100 and £300 available to help older people on lower incomes. As well as The Household Support Fund – providing local authorities with the extra budget to help vulnerable households with energy bills and other essential living expenses.
Warm community havens set to continue
Knowing people had no choice but to turn off their lights and boilers last winter, many councils kept public spaces open for longer so that people had places they could warm up in and grab a hot meal.
From community centres to libraries and other public buildings, councils all across the country did what they could to give people warm refuge. It’s likely we’ll see more warm space schemes pop up as demand rises and more people struggle to heat their homes in the coming months.
Councils going above and beyond to provide extra support
Drilling down even further into the local support on offer, there’s loads going on across UK councils.
Newcastle City Council will be opening up a network of Winter Wellbeing Hubs – places that allow people to stay warm, but also access other support programmes to help boost their wellbeing. Including cookery and nutritional classes and digital skills support.
Manchester is offering free insulation and energy efficiency upgrades to low-income households, and grants to help businesses reduce their energy costs. And Ealing Council has a local welfare assistance support scheme – an extra fund that helps residents keep up with essential living costs, such as food and utility bills.
Making cost-of-living schemes and services clearer
It’s often the case people struggle in silence and don’t know where to turn to for support when times get tough. So councils are working hard to build awareness, and make sure those support services are clearly marked and easy to find.
Newham Council launched the ‘Help is Here’ campaign earlier in 2023 to sign post residents over to a range of programmes and schemes covering finances, housing, energy bills, food, work, health and emotional wellbeing.
National Energy Action has got a dearth of resources available online too – from helping people better understand meters and bills right up to giving them advice on solar panel installations.
It’s clear many people will be up against it this winter, just like the last. But even when their own budgets are being squeezed, councils are still finding creative ways to support their communities as best they can. Here’s to our local public sector heroes!
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