Somerset County Council’s Executive today (Wednesday, 19 October) approved a wide-ranging package of support to help Somerset people deal with the impacts of the Cost of Living crisis this winter.
Support includes financial assistance with food and energy bills through the Household Support Fund, a ‘Warm Welcome’ network of venues where people can find warmth and company, as well as targeted support for clinically vulnerable people in cold homes.
Somerset County Council declared a Cost of Living emergency in July of this year, and set-up a cross-party working group to investigate action the Council can take to help people through this period.
That group has worked closely with Mendip District Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council and Somerset West and Taunton Council, as well as partners in the voluntary and community sector, to put in place initiatives to bolster the support package provided by central Government.
Councillor Federica Smith-Roberts, Somerset County Council Executive Lead Member for Communities, said: “Somerset County Council declared a Cost of Living emergency because we recognised that extra support would be needed over the months ahead. Winter is never easy, especially in a rural area like Somerset, and the current economic climate has made the situation tougher.
“Working with partners, we have been able to make sure there will be a wide range of support available that complements the package of support from the Government. We aim to make sure people in Somerset do not find themselves in a position where they must choose between heating and eating.”
Somerset residents struggling to pay the bills this winter could be eligible for support through the Household Support Fund.
The County Council has been allocated £3.8m to distribute before March 31st 2023 as part of the third round of funding provided through the Government’s Household Support Fund.
This funding will be used to provide food vouchers worth £10 a week to children eligible for Free School Meals during the school holidays, and enable people to apply for support with a range of urgent essentials including fuel, food, and white goods.
Somerset County Council has contributed a total of £250,000 to Somerset Community Foundation’s Cost of Living Crisis Appeal fund which will be used to support food resilience, energy projects and the ‘Warm Welcome’ network. Somerset West and Taunton Council, Sedgemoor District Council, South Somerset District Council and Mendip District Council have also contributed £50,000 each to the SCF Cost of Living Crisis Appeal.
The Warm Welcome initiative is a network of venues that will offer an inviting place for people to keep warm. These venues will offer optional activities, or a place to get some work or homework done, or even just see a friendly face for a chat.
Spark Somerset is being funded to develop the programme and build a framework, identify appropriate spaces and co-ordinate the project moving forward. Somerset Libraries will be open as usual to offer a warm and welcoming space to all. Once all of the warm spaces have been confirmed, a public map will be made available.
Spark Somerset will also be supporting food resilience in the county as part of this work, meanwhile a map of all foodbanks, pantries, and food cupboards in Somerset is being developed which will be made publicly available.
Other support this winter includes the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) Safe and Warm Somerset helpline, which supports people who are clinically vulnerable and struggling to afford their energy bills and living in a cold home.
A total of £314,000 has been provided from Somerset County Council’s Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) Grant which means that in addition to delivery of their standard offer, CSE will also take on targeted outreach to clinically vulnerable people in cold homes and help arrange the installation of insulation and heating measures to improve the energy efficiency of low income or low EPC-rated homes.
The Council is using an additional £65,000 from the CEV grant to fund Open Mental Health to provide targeted face-to-face help at home for approximately 500 older adults in need of mental health support.
To make an application to the Household Support Fund, please visit: bit.ly/SupportFund22. If you need help to apply, please phone Somerset County Council on 0300 123 2224. People who applied to previous rounds of the Household Support Fund are welcome to apply again in this round of funding.
To donate to the Somerset Cost-of-Living Crisis Appeal today visit: Somerset Cost-of-Living Crisis Appeal – Somerset Community Foundation (somersetcf.org.uk) or call 01749 344949.
For more information about support available for Somerset residents, please click here: Additional household support for Somerset residents.