Cost-of-living crisis: support and help for Hackney residents
Hackney Council has made available an unprecedented package of financial support and help for the borough's most vulnerable residents to help them overcome the rocketing prices of everyday essentials such as food, clothes, transport and bills.
It also passed a motion at Full Council on Wednesday 20 July urging the government to introduce an emergency budget to ensure everyone gets the help they desperately need at this time of crisis.
I’m acutely aware of the severe strain many households in Hackney are under as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. Everyday essentials, such as food and household bills, are rising faster than average incomes, driven by inflation and forces outside the Council's control.
The Council too is dealing with significant financial challenges as a result of the pandemic and soaring inflation, with the cost of materials, wages and fuel adding millions of pounds to our outgoings. At the same time we face continuing ─ and unprecedented ─ demand for services from residents who need us most, particularly those in need of adult and children’s social care, and from residents seeking benefits and those in housing need. We are taking robust action to protect our finances and to continue to deliver the services you deserve and expect.
Despite this, we have made available a package of support ─ designed to help those most in need and who are facing the starkest of choices ─ that is more generous and targeted than ever before. I urge anyone experiencing difficulties to apply for help out as soon as possible.
Here’s what the Council is doing and what residents can apply for:
Household Support Fund
Since April, we have been distributing £2.8m of government funds to support households struggling with the cost of food, clothing, housing, and energy and water bills. Including:
- Families with children: The Council is working with schools, children’s centres, colleges to distribute food vouchers to those entitled to free school meals, and also to under-5s and college students in need, during the summer break, ensuring no child goes hungry over the holidays. The Council is also working with community partners to reach families in the Orthodox Jewish community.
- Senior citizens living in income deprivation.
- Residents living in temporary accommodation or supported accommodation.
We’re identifying those in need and distributing these grants directly to them, with help from partners, to ensure it reaches the right people.
Council Tax help
The Council has provided nearly £28m in Council Tax discounts for residents experiencing financial difficulties or who are on a low income. They can apply for up to £80 reduction a month on their Council Tax bill. Make a claim. You can get support in applying by calling: 020 8356 3399.
The Council has set aside an extra £150k for residents to get even more help to pay their full Council Tax bill via the Council’s Discretionary Hardship Grant. This is awarded to those in financial crisis on a case-by-case basis. Apply here.
We have already distributed £6.7m to local households who qualified for the £150 Council Tax Rebate. We have distributed a further £191k to ‘top-up’ that rebate. Households who pay their council tax by direct debit will get these automatically. If you don’t, you can check your eligibility and apply, here or call: 020 8356 3111.
Support paying energy bills
A further £193k has been distributed so far to help people struggling to pay their energy bills. These government-funded grants will help towards the rising cost of living for thousands of residents who:
- are on low income and not eligible for the £150 Council Tax rebate scheme
- have received the £150 rebate and are on low income.
The Council will also proactively contact people who it thinks need help, and those who may need support making their applications. However, you can check your eligibility and apply, here or call: 020 8356 3111.
Support paying for food, utilities, household items, travel, and phone and internet access
Residents who have suffered a sudden financial shock or face unexpected costs and require emergency help can apply for the Council’s Hackney Discretionary Crisis Support Scheme.
We have made available £150k to recognise the unprecedented impact of the cost of living crisis.
The Council will consider all requests made on an individual basis. For advice and guidance, call our customer service line on 020 8356 3000 and ask to apply for ‘discretionary crisis support’. More info here.
The Council has paid out £553k in Discretionary Housing Payments to help those experiencing difficulty meeting housing costs.
This is designed to support residents whose rent is not met in full by housing benefit or universal credit and they have a temporary situation which makes it difficult to pay their rent.
For more information and to apply, see here.
Direct Government help
Residents on means-tested benefits will receive the first of two Cost of Living Payments totalling £650, as part of a government package to help families with cost of living pressures.The first £326 instalment for qualifying low-income households will be paid by their usual payment method from this month (July 2022). For those eligible, the rest will follow in a second instalment in the autumn. Check eligibility here.
All households will receive a payment of £400 credited to their energy bills. This will be paid from October onwards and spread over six months. If you pay Council Tax by direct debit the payment will be credited to your account. If you are on a prepayment meter, it will be credited to your meter.
Help for businesses
We’re helping eligible local businesses affected by the pandemic through a £10m rate relief package. The Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF) scheme will support businesses that have not previously received any financial support from the Council in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, and with a business rates charge payable for 2021/22. To ensure businesses receive the relief as soon as possible, it will be awarded automatically to all eligible properties. Alongside this, the Council will run an application process so that businesses have an opportunity to make a claim for this support. Further details will be available here.
You can access a range of independent help and advice here.
Free and low-cost summer activities
With so many people finding things tough this year, we developed the Hello Again, Hackney: Summer Festival. This brings together low-cost and free activities happening in Hackney - including discounted offers and events, which residents can take advantage of thanks to Council funding - and culminating in the spectacular Hackney Carnival in September. More.
Look out too for this year’s summer guide. The Council has worked with youth organisations to produce a programme of hundreds of free or low-cost activities - including sports, arts, drama, events in music, theatre and digital media, and much more - for young people of all age groups to take part in over the summer break. The guide will be going to schools, youth hubs and adventure playgrounds this month. And it is online here.
New and smarter ways of working
The Council has created new, smarter ways of working that make the best use of existing resource to ensure residents get financial help and support they’re entitled to in the quickest and most efficient way.
- Residents now only have to contact us once to be considered for a range of financial support schemes.
- We are proactively offering financial support to residents who we know from our records are likely to need it, rather than waiting for residents to come to us.
- We are working to simplify the process of applying for support and identifying where we can use information we already hold, rather than asking residents to resubmit it.
- We are working with other statutory and voluntary bodies to provide more support to residents receiving financial support, because we know a request for financial support can indicate residents may need other types of support and help.
Partnership work with community groups
- We are developing a Community Partnership Network to help organisations work together to more effectively support residents.
- We are providing more support to local food networks, such as FoodBank.
Better benefit and money management advice
- We will help people to increase their incomes by encouraging and helping them apply for all the benefits they are entitled to.
- We are providing money management advice.
Better debt management processes
- We will ensure staff working with residents and businesses establish affordable payment plans.
- We will ensure, where recovery action is necessary, we work with residents and businesses to avoid where possible actions that increase the debt, such as court and enforcement agent action.
If you are struggling to pay your rent, you can call: 020 8356 3100.
If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax, you can call: 020 8356 3154
What is the cost of living crisis?
- The cost of living crisis has seen everyday essentials - such as food, household bills, rents and mortgages - rise faster than average household incomes.
- This rate of rise is measured by inflation. Inflation is currently at nearly 10%. This means everyday goods and services are now 10% higher than this time last year.
Why is it happening?
- An increased demand for oil and gas, coupled with uncertainty over supply due to the Ukraine conflict, has meant energy prices have gone up. This has led to higher costs for energy companies and subsequently, their customers.
- There have also been shortages of goods like building materials and computer chips, which has created problems in the supply chain.
- Businesses are passing on the extra costs - higher energy, petrol and transport bills - to customers.
- Some companies who are struggling to recruit people for certain jobs, including hospitality and transport, have offered higher wages as an incentive. However, the cost of these increased wages has been passed down to the customer too.