Share the cost of living support
Welcome to the first edition of the Council’s cost of living support newsletter. The newsletter has been set up to help everyone access support and get advice on ways to save money over the coming months.
The cost of living crisis has left many people facing financial challenges for the first time or struggling more than ever to pay for essential goods and services. In the ‘Staying warm and well this winter’ article, you will find lots of information on schemes that you might be eligible for to help with heating, food, and other essential costs.
In the ‘Community Stories’ section, you can read about what specific community organisations are doing to support residents with a range of costs, including housing and food. There are many charities and other community groups providing services to people across the borough and we will be providing further information on these in future editions of this newsletter.
If you have friends or family who would be interested in hearing about support that is available to help them through the cost of living crisis, please share this newsletter and encourage them to sign up to future editions:
Any friends or family who are not online and are struggling with the cost of living can contact the Council by calling: 0300 123 8123, to find out what support is available.
Our next edition will be coming out in February 2023.
Staying warm and well this winter
Winter can be a difficult time of year for everyone. With the rising cost of living, it will be harder than ever to stay warm and well over the coming months. Find out what your Council is doing to help you.
Warm, Welcoming Spaces
Places across the borough are now set up as warm spaces for all residents. You will find a warm welcome with helpful staff where you can stay as long as you like during opening hours. Our libraries offer free refreshments, and you can make use of their books and computers while you’re there.
If your home is not very energy efficient and loses lots of heat, you might be eligible for help.
- Visit the UK Government website to find out if you’re eligible for financial support, including the Warm Homes Discount, Cold Weather Payment or Winter Fuel Payment.
- Visit the website for Groundwork’s Green Doctor scheme. Services include advice on saving energy and water, support to apply for the Warm Home Discount or the Priority Services Registers, help switching suppliers and access to other support such as grants and advice on energy debt.
- Visit the Energy Saving Trust website to see how much money you could save a year by making simple changes like draught-proofing your house and turning your devices off of standby when you’re not using them.
- The Local Energy Advice Program (LEAP) offers free Home Energy Visits or in-depth advice calls to people across west Cheshire who are vulnerable to living in a cold home. The service can help with installing simple measures like LED light bulbs and draughtproofing, providing energy efficiency advice and training, seeking funding for energy efficiency or income maximisation support, switching energy supplier, and identifying hazards and vulnerabilities in the home. Contact Energy Projects Plus.
- The Energy Networks Association has launched their ‘Be winter ready’ campaign. Visit their website to find information on: Prepare (plan for what to do if you have a power cut or smell gas), Care (check in with people who might need extra help) and Share (share this information so friends and family can make a plan too).
- Visit the Council website for more information on benefits and financial assistance. On this page, you have the option to request a benefits welfare visit. There is also lots of information there about the financial help available to those who don’t qualify for or receive benefits.
Keeping warm at home
Many people may struggle to keep their homes warm due to the rising cost of energy or poor energy efficiency in homes. It is important to stay warm to prevent cold-related illnesses. Here are some tips to help you stay warm and well this winter.
- Answer a set of questions to find ways to make your home more energy efficient: Find ways to save energy in your home. You will need information on your house and insulation. If you are not a homeowner, you can approach your landlord and see if they are willing to make any of the changes.
- Make sure you are up to date on your flu jab and COVID-19. Check if you are eligible for a flu vaccine and/or Covid-19 vaccination on the NHS website.
- Heat yourself rather than the whole house. Try using a hot water bottle or electric throw blanket, but please check the safety advice on these items first.
- Keep the windows and curtains closed to keep the heat in, and try and block any draughts entering through windows or under doors.
- Wear lots of layers to trap the heat around your body. You could try tights underneath trousers, and multiple top layers.
- Try and have at least one hot meal a day. Meals that are microwave-friendly use less energy than the oven. If you are struggling to make warm meals, you might be eligible for emergency tokens which can provide a hot meal from a local foodbank. Find out more from West Cheshire Foodbank.
- The floor is usually the coldest part of the house. Put your feet up on a stool or similar to help them stay warmer while you’re sitting down.
- Get up and move around, if you’re able to. A quick workout or a few star jumps can get your heart pumping and make you feel warmer. It will also help you stay healthy and can boost your mood for the day.
Five ways to put your wellbeing first
As the cost of living rises, many people will be worried about managing their money and paying for everything they need. At this stressful time, it is more important than ever to look after your health and wellbeing.
Stress can have a negative impact on your mental health and your physical health. January is an especially difficult month with Christmas festivities long-forgotten and the shine already wearing off New Year’s resolutions.
The Council has teamed up with Brio Leisure and Active Cheshire to share information and advice about five ways to lift your mood and improve your wellbeing.
The 5 Ways to Wellbeing are:
- Connect – with people around you, including friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours. Good relationships give you a sense of belonging and self-worth, as well as providing emotional support.
- Be active – whether it is going for a run or a walk, gardening, playing a game or dancing around the kitchen, being active can raise your self-esteem, help you to set goals you can achieve and cause chemical changes in your brain that can positively change your mood.
- Take notice – savour the moment and make the effort to be more aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Mindfulness can help you enjoy life more and understand yourself better.
- Learn – try something new or rediscover an old interest, which will help boost your self-confidence, give you a sense of purpose and help you connect with others.
- Give – do something nice for someone else, volunteer or say thank you. Acts of giving and kindness can create a sense of reward, give you a feeling of purpose and self-worth and help you connect with others.
It is traditional for many people to make New Year’s resolutions about losing weight or dropping a bad habit, but if that feels like it’s adding pressure on yourself at a time when you already have a lot of worries, then why not look to do something much more positive for yourself.
Whether you decide to learn how to cook a new tea, join a guided walk to be active and connect or give some of your time to volunteer, it is possible to find your own five ways to wellbeing.
The 5 Ways to Wellbeing have been adopted by the NHS and mental health charity Mind following evidence that the steps improve people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Find food support near you
If you’re looking for food support in your area, take a look at the live, interactive map on the Welcome Network website.
The map brings all services together in one place, so it’s easy for you to find support near you or signpost friends and family to the right place.
Volunteers play a key role in these food groups and other charitable organisations. The Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA) volunteering platform highlights the range of opportunities available for those wanting to support their local community.
Volunteering is flexible and you can often find a role to suit your skills and interests, making it ideal for anyone looking to try something new. Volunteering also meets all of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing by helping you to:
- connect with others
- keep active
- take notice of the world around you
- learn new things
- give back.
About Cheshire West Voluntary Action
The Welcome Network is part of the team at Cheshire West Voluntary Action, an organisation that works with food groups across west Cheshire to help residents access the food they need.
As the go-to place for charitable organisations in the community sector across west Cheshire, CWVA has been working closely with the Council and other organisations around the cost of living, helping its members to:
- access funding opportunities to ease any challenges
- recruit new volunteers to support services
- form links with other organisations
- and much more.
If you’re providing services in the community to support residents, you could become a CWVA member and access the range of support it offers to charitable organisations.
Weaver Vale Housing Trust is here to help you if you’re worried about money or struggling to pay your bills. The teams offer personalised advice and support because everyone’s circumstances are different.
Making contact is the first step to helping with any money worries and they are committed to giving you the advice and practical support you need.
For more information on support services, call: 0300 303 9848 and ask for the Rent Support Team. They will help you find out which services you can access.
There is a dedicated Money Matters Team who can help you with debts, budgeting, benefits, and energy advice. They are experts and they are there to help you.
There are also various support services to help people get back into work and/or training. For more information on training and other employment support, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call the number above and ask for the Work Team.
Energy debt is another area they offer advice on. Here are some important tips to help you avoid falling into energy debt or deal with your debt during these difficult winter months.
Top tips to avoid or deal with energy debt
- If you are worried about your bill, contact your supplier (this is whoever your gas and electric account is with) straight away to come to an affordable arrangement. The sooner you do this the better. Don’t let a big debt build up.
- Before you agree a payment arrangement, go through your budget (the money you have coming in and what you spend each week or month) to make sure you know what you can afford. Be honest with yourself about this because it’s no good offering to pay something you can’t afford.
- When making a payment arrangement, don’t agree to something you know is not affordable. If this means you can’t pay for energy, speak to your supplier or seek some advice regarding your debt. Citizens Advice is always a good place to start for this. You can visit the Citizens Advice website or call: 0800 278 7806.
- If you are on a pre-payment meter, contact your supplier to make sure that any money owed to them is being paid at the lowest rate possible.
- Remember if you set up a weekly arrangement to repay money owed from your meter and you don’t top up for a month, these missed payments will continue building up. So if you agree to pay £5 per week and miss four weeks then £20 will be added back on to the debt balance and can sometimes be taken in a lump sum when you first top up.
- Don’t forget the standing charge (daily fixed charge) on your meter will be charged whether you have used any gas or electricity or not. If you have no money on your meter this will build up as debt and be recovered weekly or in full, from the amount you top up.
- If you haven’t used your meter for a while (this sometimes happens over summer if you haven’t used gas) and can’t afford to pay the debt that will have built up from the standing charge in one go, speak to your supplier. They can arrange to recover this at a weekly amount, which should be affordable for you.
- If you are behind on your water bill, contact your water provider as they have affordability schemes available to help you get back on track.
- If you are in receipt of means tested benefits, have water dependent medical conditions or a large family, advise the water supplier of this as there may be cheaper tariffs available for you.
- Your supplier may have a grant scheme to help repay gas, electricity or water arrears so ask them about this when you contact them. Be open and honest with them about your situation because they are often very willing to help.
The Council does not guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of any information provided by third-party organisations.
This service is provided to you at no charge by Cheshire West and Chester Council.