We know all too well that the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other global factors have pushed the cost-of-living up. To support households, the Government are investing billions of pounds through this period of high prices, whilst the Bishop Auckland community has stepped up to support the most vulnerable. It has been heart-warming to see the generosity and kindness shown by so many volunteers and organisations in our area, and I wanted to draw attention to some of these initiatives so that those in need know exactly what support is available.
I have put together a list of all the support I could find, including that being provided by the Government and the extra financial support available from the Government and Council.
It would be really appreciated if residents would be able to let me know of any other organisations or events that I should include so we can signpost it to those who may want to use it. Get in touch via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via my socials.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO HELP WITH THE COST-OF-LIVING
SHORT-TERM WELFARE ASSISTANCE- Durham County Council run a welfare assistance scheme to help people whose circumstances have changed unexpectedly and need help with daily living expenses or to stay in/move back into housing. Find out more here.
HOUSEHOLD SUPPORT FUND- I am aware that Durham County Council have been given a further £4.6 million by the Government to provide cost-of-living support during the winter. This should arrive in the form of food vouchers for families eligible for Free School Meals (already handed out), grants and food/fuel vouchers for vulnerable households without children, clothing grants for vulnerable schoolchildren, grants for kinship carers and support for “off grid” energy customers. You can read more about eligibility here. If you are having any difficulties in accessing this support, please do get in touch with me.
COST-OF-LIVING PAYMENT- Those on means-tested benefits will receive payments totalling £900 between Spring 2023 and 2024. The first payment (£301) will be delivered in Spring 2023, the second (£300) will come in Autumn 2023, and the third (£299) should arrive in Spring 2024. Exact payment windows will be announced closer to the time.
DISABILITY COST-OF-LIVING PAYMENT- Those on disability benefits will receive an extra £150 payment during Summer 2023.
PENSIONER COST-OF-LIVING PAYMENT- Recipients of the Winter Fuel Payment (WFP) will get an additional £300 on top of their standard WFP during Winter 2023/4.
ENERGY PRICE GUARANTEE- Per-units rate caps on electricity and gas will continue to save the average household around £900 this winter, then adjusted caps will save an average of £500 from April 2023/24.
BENEFITS UPRATING- In April 2023, benefits and pension payments will rise by 10.1% in line with inflation.
MONTHLY ENERGY BILL DISCOUNTS- The universal £66 energy bill discounts will continue from this month until March. Those on pre-payment energy meters will continue to receive their voucher via text, email or post and will have 90 days to use them.
INDIRECT AND ‘OFF-GRID’ CUSTOMER PAYMENTS- Those without a direct relationship to a domestic energy supplier, including care home residents and those living in park homes, will receive a £400 discount on their fuel bills, which they will need to apply for through an online portal on Gov.uk, or a helpline if you have no internet access. This should go live in February, with more details to come. Those who use alternative fuels, like biomass or heating oil, will receive a £200 Alternative Fuel Payment through their electricity supplier in February. If you don’t have an electricity supplier, you will need to use the same portal due to come online soon.
COUNCIL TAX SUPPORT- If you or your partner have savings or investments under £16,000, or are living with someone who is not responsible for Council Tax or is on a low-income, you may be liable for a Council Tax reduction. Find out more here.
MEANS-TESTED BENEFITS- More widely, people can check their eligibility for other means-tested benefits using Government-approved benefits calculators here.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY SUPPORT- Durham County Council offer advice on the grants available for boiler replacements, wall and loft insulation, energy bill supports, benefit checks, fire safety checks and more. You can contact them at 03000 268 000.
PENSION CREDIT- 800,000 people in the UK have not claimed Pension Credit that they are entitled too. Please do check your eligibility here.
STUDENTS- you may be eligible for money from your college or university’s Access to Learning Fund if you are experiencing financial hardship. You will need to contact your student services department and be ready with a copy of your student finance letter and any documents about your finances eg bank statements and rent details. You can find out more here.
FOOD AND ENERGY SUPPORT IN THE COMMUNITY
WOODHOUSE CLOSE COMMUNITY CENTRE- crisis intervention team available and food bank open Monday-Thursday from 9-4:30pm and 9-12:30pm on Fridays. Located on Proudfoot Drive.
SHILDON ALIVE- Runs a community shop on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9am-3pm, 9am-12pm on Wednesday and 10am-12pm on Saturday. Includes ‘shelves for all’ which lets you grab a basket and fill it with food rescued from landfill for a suggested donation of £1.
FIND YOUR NEAREST WARM SPACE- if you need a place to stay warm and enjoy some company without increasing your energy costs, Durham County Council have created a directory showing the nearest warm spaces to you, which you can utilise here.
WEAR VALLEYS WOMEN’S AID- Provides refuge for women and children escaping abusive relationships, providing emotional support and accommodation. Contact them at email@example.com or telephone them for urgent support at 07946 190203.
FOUR CLOCKS CENTRE- Warm Space every Tuesday and Wednesday from 9:30am-11:30am until 8th March. Includes free tea, coffee, wifi along with books, papers and games. On Newgate Street.
STOREHOUSE- Operates a foodbank every Friday, 4-6pm, at the Methodist Hall on Scar Top. Referral not needed before 12 weeks. Also does pick up sessions for warm clothing, hot water bottles and more. Find out more on their Facebook page here.
SALVATION ARMY CHURCH HALL - Foodbank on Cross Street in Shildon, open 12pm-14:00pm on Monday and 10:00am-14:00pm on Thursdays.
ST PAUL’S CENTRE- Spennymoor foodbank open on Fridays between 10:00am-12:00pm. You will need a voucher from a referrer or you can ask your referrer to call 0191 303 7559.
SPENNYMOOR TRINITY CHURCH- Located on Rosa Street and open on Tuesdays between 10:00am-12:00pm.
THE WELL CAFÉ- West Auckland’s café runs a community pantry from 9am-2pm on Tuesdays and 9-3 on Wednesdays to Fridays. They also run a foodbank from 10am-2am on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Contact the café at 01388 834005 for more information.
TOW LAW COMMUNITY CENTRE- On Ironworks Road. Runs food bank from 10:00am-16:00pm on Thursdays and offers tea, coffee and snacks.
ANGEL TRUST- Food bank and community pantry. All families can join the pantry for £5 (receiving free goody bag), then pay £5 per basket of food. Located at Beldevere House, Kingsway in Bishop. Open 10am-2pm and 4-7pm on Tuesday then 10am-2pm on Friday. Opens as a food bank for families referred by the Trussell Trust from 11am-2pm on Monday-Thursday. For a referral, call the Trust at 01913037559.
THE BREAD-AND-BUTTER THING- Members of the Bread and Butter Thing can get shopping bags filled with an average of £35 worth of produce and cupboard stables for just £7.50 per week. Find your local hub here, then text 07860 063 304 with your full name, postcode, and the name of the hub you will be collecting from. The closest one to Bishop Auckland town is St. Andrew’s Primary from 14:30-15:00 on Fridays.