Cost of living: Money and debt

The section explores efforts being made to address financial insecurity and hardship, one of the biggest impacts of the rising cost of living.

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Birmingham City Council: Holistic cost of living support page

Birmingham City Council has created an easy to navigate webpage for residents to use who are struggling with the cost of living. Features include information on where to get debt advice, an electronic foodbank voucher request form and a search tool to find local voluntary community sector organisations.

Birmingham City Council: Cost of living support 

Bristol City Council: Bristol’s One City Response

From March 2022, the Bristol City Council Neighbourhood and Communities service have convened staff from across the council to understand the potential impacts of the rising cost of living on individuals and communities.

Bristol City Council: Bristol’s One City Response

Bristol City Council: Expanding the provision of affordable credit 

In 2019, Bristol City Council made a £500,000 investment into the Bristol Credit Union to support the long-term, sustainable growth of the credit union and improve residents’ access to affordable credit. The investment aimed to support BCU to triple in size over five years, boost access to affordable credit, create local jobs in the ethical finance sector and support outreach workers to provide financial advice in the most deprived wards in the city.

In 2019/20, the Bristol Credit Union made loans to over 870 people who live in the bottom 20 percent of areas by levels of deprivation. Assuming they had used a high-cost lender instead, the Union saved these borrowers just under £690,000 across the year. Across all members in Bristol and Bath, the Union is potentially saving its members over £2.9 million.

Colchester Borough Council: Cost of living campaign targeted at street level

Colchester Borough Council launched a cost of living campaign in July 2022 to support the residents of Colchester who may be facing financial hardship through rising energy, food and fuel costs.

Colchester Borough Council: Cost of living campaign targeted at street level

Cornwall Council: Make Big Savings by Bus scheme

In April 2022 Cornwall Council launched the Make Big Savings by Bus scheme, which has significantly cut the cost of bus travel for residents in Cornwall by around one third. The council has introduced new Tap & Cap technology that means customers using contactless will be cards will be charged no more than £5 a day or £20 a week, no matter how many journeys they take. The initiative follows the council’s successful bid for £23.5m in government funding involves bus companies including First South West and Go Cornwall Bus working in partnership as Transport for Cornwall. It is hoped the initiative will encourage more people to travel by bus, which will not only save residents money but also contribute to the council’s net zero goals.

Cornwall Council: Make Big Savings by Bus scheme

Coventry City Council: Promoting access to cheaper broadband and phone social tariffs

Coventry Council have created a webpage which includes details on how residents can access social tariffs for home broadband and phones. Many major telecom providers offer reduced rates to customers on a reduced income and are in receipt of certain benefits. General knowledge of these schemes is limited and promoting the scheme could potentially reduce the outgoings of many lower-income households. 

Derbyshire County Council: Funding and promoting access to affordable credit

The council has previously supported credit unions and community banks in the county to expand their provision. In 2020, support was agreed from the council’s public health budget to further promote access to affordable lending through the provision of a dedicated Service Development Officer and funding dedicated to promoting affordable lending and removing barriers to access. The project launched in October 2021 and is funded for three years. 

Derbyshire County Council: Funding and promoting access to affordable credit

East Suffolk Council: ‘Ease the Squeeze’

East Suffolk Council has worked with partners across sectors, through a series of workshops, to develop a wide reaching programme to support local residents with the rising cost of living.

East Suffolk Council: ‘Ease the Squeeze’

East Sussex County Council: Discounted travel as part of a 'Bus Back Better' strategy

To increase bus use and help residents with increasing petrol prices, East Sussex Council have partnered with Brighton and Hove Buses and Metrobus to introduce lower bus fares, including a £5 East Sussex day ticket, a child fare of £1 after 6pm and free travel for four children with an adult. The council has offered to reimburse some costs to the operators. 

East Sussex County Council: 'Bus Back Better'

Gateshead Council: Supporting residents with debt and financial problems

Gateshead Council has seen unemployment rates rise, but the council is working with its partners to provide targeted support to the most deprived communities in a variety of ways. This includes working in partnership with a third sector organisation that runs community hubs, providing support to those in council tax arrears and funding extra Citizens Advice debt adviser posts.

Gateshead Council: Supporting residents with debt and financial problems

Kent County Council: Free bus travel for young people and families

Kent County Council is offering young people and families free unlimited bus passes during the summer holidays as part of their Reconnect scheme. Reconnect is a community-led initiative designed to support Kent’s children and young people to reconnect with the activities and interests they enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic, help them catch up with learning they may have missed and, along the way, discover new interests and activities.

Free bus travel for young people and families - Kent County Council

Lewes District Council 

Lewes District Council has announced an extra £250,000 fund to combat the cost of living crisis. As part of this package, the council have created a new post for a dedicated officer to oversee a strategic action plan, as well as coordinate the additional funding through the coming months.

Council announces a further £250,000 to combat cost of living crisis - Lewes and Eastbourne Councils

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham: Holistic financial guidance and support

Barking and Dagenham Council has led on the creation of a new standalone financial guidance and support website called Barking and Dagenham Money, a focal point for the Council’s communications and support relating to the escalating cost of living crisis.

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham: Holistic financial guidance and support

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham: Linking social prescribing to social welfare

Social prescribing is delivered in Barking and Dagenham as a service embedded within the council, working in partnership with other statutory services.

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham: Linking social prescribing to social welfare

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham: Using data and behavioural science to support residents in debt

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham made proactive calls to residents at summons stage for council tax arrears to see if they could set up a payment plan or needed support in February 2021. This increased the numbers of payment plans set up and residents appreciated the approach.

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham: Using data and behavioural science to support residents in debt

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham: A 'cash first' approach to hardship grants

The pandemic and the cost of living resulted in the council recognizing the importance of getting hardship funds to struggling households as quickly and effectively as possible. In response, a ‘cash-first’ approach to grant provision has been adopted which involves the prioritisation of cash grants over in-kind support such as food parcels or shopping vouchers. 

London Borough of Barking and Dagenham: A ‘cash first’ approach to hardship grants

London Borough of Lambeth: Streamlining access to financial support

To ensure that residents receive the right support at the right time, Lambeth Council entered into a partnership with Lightning Reach, an award-winning social impact startup, to connect people in financial hardship to a personalised range of support.

London Borough of Lambeth: Streamlining access to financial support

London Borough of Southwark: Innovative use of the Household Support Fund

Southwark Council used the Household Support Fund to improve delivery of local welfare including providing direct cash support to help low income households pay rising energy bills, set levels of support based on local welfare data, and create community referral pathways.

London Borough of Southwark: Innovative use of the Household Support Fund

London Borough of Southwark: Partnering with the Money Adviser Network to reduce debts

Southwark Council partners with the Money Adviser Network, referring customers mainly for rent or council tax arrears. This provides immediate assistance, while building a picture of who in the borough is in particular need and plan support for the future.

London Borough of Southwark: Partnering with the Money Adviser Network to reduce debts

London Borough of Southwark: Step-by-Step

Step-by-Step is a Southwark Council initiative to test different approaches to managing debt to the Council – including council tax debt. Where residents volunteer to participate, the Council will immediately suspend all recovery and enforcement action for a period to allow arrangements to be set in place. Under the latest pilots, Step-by-Step also offers debtors access to free, independent debt advice available by phone or online.

London Borough of Southwark: Step-by-Step

London Borough of Southwark: Worrying About Money tool

The Worrying About Money tool is an initiative of the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) and was co-produced in conjunction with, Public Health Southwark, Citizens Advice, and a variety of other VCS partners. The online tool, that is also available as a downloadable leaflet,  is available in multiple languages and has been co-designed as a simple and easy to use resource for people facing financial crisis, and those supporting them, to quickly see what advice and cash first support options are available in the local area.

The aim is to reduce the need for emergency food aid, and the impact of the cost of living crisis, by helping people access any existing financial entitlements and advice on income maximisation.  

A launch event was held in November 2021 where partners presented on the development of the leaflet and the various services available through it. To further develop use of the leaflet, Southwark Council public health team funded Citizens Advice to train local frontline advice workers on how to best utilize the tool. Training materials were created in consultation with IFAN and Citizens Advice services in Scotland, who were already running their own ‘train the trainer courses’. To date, Citizens Advice have delivered six training sessions on the Worrying About Money leaflets to around 100 local frontline workers.

Partners have been careful to ensure the information contained in the training and tool is kept up to date as further financial support is announced at a national level to help with the cost of living crisis.

Southwark - Worried about Money? (worryingaboutmoney.co.uk)

Merton Council: Cost of living events at local libraries 

In July 2022 Merton Council ran a series of cost of living support events held at local libraries for residents concerned about rising living costs.

The council were joined by local partners to offer residents general advice and sign posting to organisations that are able to offer specialist one-on-one support. A selection of stallholders attended including Citizens Advice, Springfield Advice and Law Centre, DWP Job Centre, Wimbledon Guild, Croydon Plus Credit Union, Age UK Merton, Money and Pensions Service, Housing Advice, Thinking Works, Barclays Bank and Welfare Benefits.

All residents that attended were offered a £10 supermarket voucher that can be redeemed at locally to support the food economy and system in the borough.

Cost of Living Event, Mitcham Library | Merton Council

Northumberland County Council: Free travel for young people during holidays

Northumberland County Council are providing free bus travel for children during the summer holidays to support families with increasing costs. It is hoped the scheme will make it easier and cheaper for families to have days out, revive the public transport.

Northumberland County Council - Children to enjoy free bus travel this summer

Plymouth City Council: Cost of living crisis task force

Plymouth have created a new multi-agency task force to coordinate a city-wide effort to provide support for residents impacted by the rising cost of living.

The task force, instigated by Councillor Rebecca Smith, Cabinet member for Homes and Communities, includes Plymouth’s Director of Public Health, Ruth Harrell and representatives from key agencies across the city.

The rising cost of living is an issue that is affecting many families, and we know it is a worrying time. There’s a lot of good work happening in Plymouth from organisations who provide advice and support, as well as practical help.

Councillor Rebecca Smith, Cabinet member for Homes and Communities

Plymouth city has committed to a joined up approach to tackle many of its challenges, as signalled by the Plymouth Plan.

Examples of initiatives to support residents include:

  • wellbeing hubs (which offer debt and employment advice, mental health support, volunteer opportunities and signposting to other health services, voluntary and community sector activities)
  • Plymouth Energy Community who offer advice and support to households struggling with fuel bills or poorly heated homes as well as signpost people to potential grants.
  • Food Plymouth, and the Plymouth Food Aid Network work with partners to help people access food-related support such as food banks, food vouchers and eligibility for free school meals and other schemes.
  • an online hub with information about a wide range of support available www.plymouthonlinedirectory.com/costoflivingsupport.
Portsmouth City Council: New cost of living tool for frontline staff and residents

Portsmouth City Council have created a cost of living action plan checklist tool for frontline staff to use with residents.

Portsmouth City Council: cost of living tool

Rent-flex: A new approach to rent payment centred on customer need

Rent-flex is a scheme that was co-created with residents and housing associations, offering a new way for customers to plan and pay their rent. At the core of rent-flex is a ‘joint planning’ framework with potential to transform the landlord-resident relationship. Residents are offered personalised rent payment plans: providing them with the opportunity to pay less rent in months when money is tight, and slightly more when things are that little bit easier. In exchange, residents engage with support services and keep their housing provider informed of their financial situation so any extra help required can be provided.

Rent-flex (www.rent-flex.com)

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council: Here to Help

The Royal Borough has responded proactively to the rising cost of living by leading an impactful campaign with community partners, highlighting the support that can help those struggling to cope to hopefully avoid the need for crisis support. 

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council: Here to Help

Contact: Rebecca Hatch, Head of Strategy - rebecca.hatch@rbwm.gov.uk

Salford City Council: Taking a rights-based approach to advice

The Welfare Rights, Debt Advice and Fairer Charging Service aims to tackle poverty and reduce health inequalities in Salford by combining the delivery of social welfare advice focused on social security, debt and homelessness reduction with social policy work.

Salford City Council: Taking a rights-based approach to advice

South Gloucestershire Council: Cost of Living Taskforce and signposting campaign

South Gloucestershire Council created a Financial Security Group to link all areas of financial security together and provide a comprehensive approach to supporting people.

South Gloucestershire Council: Cost of Living Taskforce and signposting campaign

South Norfolk and Broadland Council: Help hubs

South Norfolk and Broadland Council have set up Help Hubs to support their residents with the rising cost of living.  The initiative employs strategic working to improve operational service delivery across organisations for the benefit of residents which the councils should celebrate more. Bringing together a network of partners and services including the police, health, housing, benefits, voluntary sector, primary care networks and more to provide a bespoke “one stop shop” of support and advice to individuals or families facing hardship. 

Help Hub – Broadland and South Norfolk (southnorfolkandbroadland.gov.uk)

Swindon Borough Council: Responding to the cost of living with a benefit uptake campaign

Swindon Borough Council and Citizens Advice Swindon have worked together to build a 16 point checklist to help residents tackle the cost of living. As part of campaign, the council are urging people to complete a 10 minute benefit calculator to see if they could be one of the millions of people not claiming a benefit they are entitled to. The checklist focuses on benefits such as help with childcare costs, Pension Credit, Healthy Start Vouchers, and local discretionary funds. 

Cost of living campaign launched to help Swindon residents | Swindon Borough Council

Telford and Wrekin Council: School uniform donation scheme

Telford and Wrekin Council’s School Uniform Project has been set up to provide children from low-income households’ access to good school uniform that fits. The council began the project with a social media campaign for donations and by setting up collection points across the borough where unused, unwanted or outgrown uniform could be donated.

Newsroom - School Uniform Project helps families (telford.gov.uk)

Walsall Council: Cost of living support and advice scheme

A scheme to provide support and advice for Walsall families struggling with the rising cost of living has been launched by Walsall Council, working in partnership with organisations from across the borough.

Walsall Council: Cost of living support and advice scheme

Wigan Council: Reusable nappy scheme to help new parents save money 

Wigan has launched a new eco money-saving nappy scheme to help new parents save money, be kinder to their baby’s skin and help the planet by making the switch to reusable nappies. The trial scheme offers parents and parents-to-be the opportunity to try out the world of reusable nappies. Residents can apply to take part in the trial scheme – which will see them receive a range of reusable nappies, including enough to see a baby through from birth to potty training, alongside personalised expert and peer support – for just £10.

Reusable Nappies (Wigan Family Information Services Directory)

Wigan Council: Using behavioural insights to increase contact with tenants in arrears

Wigan Council's Collections team used behavioural insights to encourage tenants who were in arrears, and who had not been in contact with the Collections team, to get in touch and access support. The team sent a one-page letter to tenants – written with an empathetic tone emphasising support rather than arrears and rent collection, and featuring a single call-to-action. 

Wigan Council: Using behavioural insights to increase contact with tenants in rent arrears