Faced with the cost-of-living crisis, councils and the voluntary sector know times are very tough for many families. Inflation has reached a record level. Energy bills are up by a staggering 53%.
There have been sharp increases to other bills – with food prices climbing and an unfair hike in national insurance hitting low and middle-income earners. One in four youngsters in Newcastle are trapped in child poverty with over one in seven city household experiencing ‘fuel stress’. (spending over a tenth of their income on gas and electric)
Cuts in council funding
As the think tank the Resolution Foundation notes wages and salaries are stagnating culminating in the worse drop in living standards since 1974. Newcastle City Council’s funding has been cut by over £310m since 2010 by the UK government leading to a % reduction in-front line public services.
Government response to fuel poverty copies Labour Party scheme
Central government has responded in part to the growing ‘fuel poverty’ crisis by emulating a scheme originally put forward by the Labour Party – imposing a one off levy (windfall tax) on gas and oil companies
Every household will receive a one off £400 payment with an additional £650 for those on means-tested benefits like UC. Disabled people will receive an extra £150 with pensioner gaining an additional £300.
Although welcomed by many this will not compensate for huge cuts in social and welfare provision in the last decade.
What Newcastle council is doing
Locally Newcastle City Council are administering current Energy Support payments. To date the local authority has made one off £150 payments to over 66k households. 7,000 households (in receipt of Council Tax Support) so far have received an additional £18 (topping up their payment from £150 to £168). A further 28,000 will receive this by July 2022.
The council is supporting 16, 000 local children and their families to access good quality free meals during the school holidays through the use of £15 weekly food vouchers. The £1.6m Holiday Activity Fund will continue to provide support over the Summer and Christmas holidays. As part of the Best Summer Ever programme 50 local community projects will deliver holiday activities and facilities across venues in the city. The projects will provide free sessions and a lunchtime meal. Sessions will begin from 25 July till 3 September 2022.
Despite these initiatives regional charities and local authorities are lobbying for more substantial support for those on low-incomes with a fit for purpose modernised social welfare system which provides a genuine safety net for those in need.