Extra funding has been invested into schemes in North Yorkshire to help local people meet essential living costs this winter.
The county council was recently awarded £3.5m from the Department for Work and Pensions in Household Support Funding.
Some of that funding has been allocated to the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund (NYLAF) which provides emergency financial support to those unable to meet essential living costs, such as energy bills or food.
NYLAF can also make awards in kind, such as supplying basic necessities or household goods such as a fridge.
The council has been running the scheme for the past eight years, but the additional funding means people can make up to four applications for support with energy and food costs, rather than the normal two.
People can also apply for hardship funding or help with minor repairs to make their homes warmer under the Warm and Well in North Yorkshire fund, which is also benefiting from additional funding this winter.
Further funding from the Household Support Fund has also been allocated to food banks around the county.
Cllr David Chance said: “We know the pandemic has placed pressure on people’s finances and meeting essential living costs will be harder for many households as we head into the colder months of winter.
“Following the Government’s announcement of the Household Support Fund in October this year, we have worked in tandem with partners across the county to distribute the money as swiftly as possible to those most in need.
“If you are struggling to heat your home this winter, or unable to meet other essential costs, then you may be eligible for help from our NYLAF or Warm and Well in North Yorkshire assistance schemes.”
Household Support Funding has also been used to provide supermarket vouchers to families most in need of financial support this winter. Working together, the district, borough and county councils put together a criteria to provide eligible families with supermarket vouchers equating to £250 to help pay for food and other costs.
In recent weeks, a letter has been sent from the County Council to families with a child under the age of 19 living at home and who receive means-tested council tax support or reduction, which details how they can access the vouchers.
The e-vouchers can be used online, or in stores locally, and should help people with children meet the costs of food, energy bills and other utilities. They will receive two e-voucher payments of £125, one in December and the second in January 2022.
People who are not eligible for direct payments, but think they may be eligible for council tax reductions are encouraged to contact their local district or borough council to find out if they qualify. For more information on council tax reduction/support, visit; www.gov.uk/apply-council-tax-reduction.
More than 8,000 families in the county are eligible to receive the vouchers. The majority of households have now claimed their payments and those who haven’t yet activated their vouchers are encouraged to do so.
Organisations working directly with communities and families who have received e-vouchers say they have made a great difference to families who were struggling to afford the basics in the run-up to Christmas and people had been in touch to say how much the vouchers helped.
Abbie Rhodes works for the Upper Dales Community Partnership, a Community Support Organisation based in Hawes. The partnership runs the local post office, library and petrol station, as well as delivering a community transport service. Since April 2020, the Upper Dales Community Partnership has been working with the County Council and other partners to deliver community-based support to those affected by the pandemic, under their A Good Life Project.
Abbie said: “We have had very positive feedback from parents and families, who wanted to get in touch to let us know what a huge help the payments have been.
“So far, more than 82 per cent of families eligible have claimed their December voucher. We know this funding has really helped families afford food and other essentials in the run-up to Christmas.
“But there are still about 1,500 households in the county who are entitled to Household Support Fund e-vouchers, but haven’t yet claimed them. We would like to make sure they claim the help they are entitled to receive.
“If you’ve received a letter from the council identifying you as eligible for payments, then please apply. The vouchers will not affect your Universal Credit payments or any other benefits you may be getting and you won’t be asked to repay it at a later date.
“If you have received a letter from North Yorkshire County Council, you need to claim by December 17 to get your first voucher before Christmas.
“We know many people are feeling financial pressure at the moment, as we head into winter following the end of the national furlough scheme and the increased costs of essential goods and services.
“If you are not eligible for the supermarket vouchers, but struggling with essential living costs, such as heating your home, or finding money for food, then please get in contact with NYLAF or Warm and Well in North Yorkshire, who may be able to help.”
For more information on the Household Support Fund, or other financial support available in North Yorkshire, visit; www.northyorks.gov.uk/HouseholdSupportFund