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Two million to help people across Oxfordshire with cost of living this winter

Credit Peter Byrne PA

The county council have announced emergency welfare, council tax support and warm places for people struggling with heating bills.

As residents across the county prepare for the increase in winter energy cost, the cabinet agreed proposals to help combat the rising bills and inflation.

An emergency welfare scheme allows for improved administration of current initiatives, such as the provision of food support to children in early years settings and the targeting of grants in areas such as families who are not benefiting from national energy support schemes.

Given steeply rising energy bills, it is anticipated that many residents will feel they are not able to heat their homes adequately this winter.

 The county council will offer warm places across the winter, with the focus on its libraries network. Libraries will be offered as welcoming and warm places for people to spend time, helping with isolation, loneliness and mental wellbeing as well as warmth.

 There is also a plan to offer a grants scheme for community venues to contribute to their energy costs with the proviso that they would open for a set time each week.

There will be a £100,000 fund available for organisations to bid to.

The Oxfordshire Community Foundation (OCF) is developing a new grants round to support voluntary and community sector organisations tackle the cost- of-living crisis. It will aim to improve the lives of people on the lowest incomes by funding the charities and community groups that work to build resilience and alleviate hardship.

It will launch in October with an initial £100,000 of Foundation funding being matched by the county council.

Meanwhile they are also supporting Council Tax hardship funds being considered by district councils. Such funds give councils additional discretionary powers to reduce the amount of Council Tax payable by individuals facing exceptional circumstances

Other funding includes £210,000 grant to Citizens Advice in place to maintain debt and benefits advice capacity to June 2023.

£245,000 is in place to expand the Better Homes Better Health programme allowing the scheme to reach fuel poor households with advice on reducing energy costs.

£322,000 of COVID funding has been assigned to the Care Workers Charity to provide crises grants for the most in need workers.

Councillor Liz Leffman, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “The winter ahead looks incredibly difficult for people of all ages, backgrounds and incomes and for businesses and organisations too. Prices for many essentials are rising steeply and the cost of energy is a particular concern.

“We know that central government is announcing its own plans, but there is far more that they could and should do.  We believe we must act decisively to do all that we can locally to give assistance.

“Of course, in local government, we have much more limited powers than national government, but we will use all of the influence at our disposal to make a difference to people’s lives.

“There is little time to waste. The rise in the energy price cap occurs at the start of October and very soon thereafter the coldest months of the year will be upon us.”

Cllr Mark Lygo, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Equalities said: “We all need to work hard to focus support on those who are struggling as the winter approaches. It will now be important to work in partnership with fellow councils and other organisations who will be gearing themselves up to help. Resource and effort are important but so is coordination. By working together, we can make a difference in these tough times.”

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