A message from Durham County Council via the Community Champions Project
The cost of living continues to put financial pressure on many of our residents. With this in mind, I would like to remind you of the services to which your teams can signpost residents to for help and support. I would ask that you please share this information with your services, include in your newsletters and discuss at your team meetings – it’s important that this information is cascaded throughout the Council and also to our wider partners, anyone you may work with or speak to who is facing financial difficulties and encourage them to seek help as soon as possible.
We have recently received a further allocation of £4.6m from the Government’s Household Support Fund. This will be used to support residents between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023. We will continue to work with our partners to provide support to households in need, particularly those struggling with the cost of energy. The fund can also be used to support with costs associated with food, energy and water bills and wider essentials. In cases of genuine emergency, it can also be used to help with housing costs. If you are aware of anyone who is struggling with these essentials, please encourage them to contact us.
Applications for the council tax energy rebate payment have now closed. However, a large number of households who receive Council Tax Reduction have not yet applied for the rebate. Where this is the case, we have credited their council tax account with £150. We would encourage any household that has not yet applied for this support to contact our customer services team on 03000 26 0000 or by emailing email@example.com so we can process this payment. When visiting a client, please ask if they have received their council tax energy rebate and signpost them to our customer services team if not.
We continue to update our information as things change to make it as easy as possible for anyone experiencing financial difficulty to access the information and support, they need. The most up to date information can be found on our Help with your money page on our website. We have also printed a quantity of financial support leaflets which have been circulated to libraries, leisure centres and our partners to ensure information is available to all residents.
All households will receive a £400 discount this winter to help with their rising energy bills. The government has now confirmed that support equivalent to this amount will also be available for households who will not be reached through the Energy Bills Support Scheme, including those that do not have a domestic electricity meter and heat network consumers on a private wire system. More detailed information on how residents can save on their energy bills can be found on our help with your heating page and energy bills web page. There is also more information in the winter edition of our Durham County News magazine, which will be distributed to residents in November. Meanwhile, those entitled to the winter fuel payment will receive an extra £300 from November 2022.
Further information on the support outlined above can be found here Cost of Living Payment – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Our Welfare Rights Team can help by offering benefit checks to ensure people are claiming all the support they are entitled to and support those faced with difficulties when claiming benefits. The team also produces factsheets on benefits and their advice line number is 03000 268 968. Please also remind residents that our customer services team can help complete forms or access online information in relation to financial support
If someone has immediate short term needs or needs help to maintain their independence in the community, they may be able to get support through the council’s Welfare Assistance Scheme.
Residents struggling with debt can access a free-to-use MoneyHelper service. Residents can also find further debt advice on our website, including details of organisations in Durham and their areas of specialism.
We are working with NEfirst Credit Union to promote affordable loans and a cashback loan scheme for the purchase of furniture and white goods to support residents who don’t qualify for our Welfare Assistance Scheme.
We are also working alongside the County Durham Community Foundation to offer funding to the voluntary and community sector to create a network of warm spaces where people can get warm. Both the council and CDCF are contributing to the funding, with £200,000 available to support premises, with a grant of up to £1,000 for their warm space offer. Once confirmed, residents will be able to access a directory at Durham Locate. Further information on the warm spaces network can be found here: Warm spaces – Durham County Council
Finally, County Durham Fire and Rescue Service is also reminding people to ensure they have working smoke alarms and to check these are working each week. For any household that has a heating appliance which doesn’t run off electricity, the fire service recommends installing a carbon monoxide alarm. Regular services should be carried out on boilers and gas appliances and households should also ensure they use the correct fuel for woodburning stoves and open fires to reduce the risk of toxic fumes, chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.