Agenda item

Cost of Living

To receive a briefing note on the support available to Council tenants in light of the increased cost of living (to follow).


The sub-committee received a report which provided an overview of the support available or planned for residents and tenants to help address the current cost of living increase.


The sub-committee was informed that, in North Tyneside, around 1 in 10 residents live in areas ranked the most deprived in England.  The southern areas of the borough had the highest levels of deprivation, however there were pockets of deprivation in many wards.  There were 7,300 children or young people in the borough entitled to free school meals.


Since June 2020, the Poverty Intervention Fund and other grant funding from Government had helped to alleviate the financial, social and health impacts of poverty for families and individuals across the borough.  This had included providing supermarket vouchers directly to families eligible for free school meals during the school holidays and support for school uniform or clothing.


Since Easter 2021, the Holiday Activities and Food Programme had supported children and young people eligible for income related free school meals to have access to meals and different activities delivered through a broad range of voluntary and community sector partners.  Work had been done to tackle digital exclusion through the provision of devices such as laptops and access to wi-fi for schools, children and young people to ensure ongoing learning throughout the lockdown periods of the pandemic.


The sub-committee was informed of direct financial support available to people struggling to pay bills and ways in which support could be accessed through Adult and Children’s Services for those facing financial hardship or crisis.


Members were informed that the Bread-and-Butter Thing was launched in April 2022 as a way to tackle food poverty and food insecurity and was delivered through local community hubs.  This provided a new way for people to have easy access in their local area to affordable food and help reduce reliance on food banks.


Officers informed Members of progress with the administration of the £150 Council Tax Energy Rebate, which an estimated 91,000 households were eligible for.  As of 20 June 2022, automated payments had been made to the majority of direct debit payers.  For households that do not pay Council Tax via direct debit, an online application process had been launched.  The closing deadline for applications was 31 July 2022.  To support people to make claims, there was an assisted claim appointments in the customer service centres, drop in sessions in libraries, as well as telephone appointments.


It was explained that on 31 March 2022 North Tyneside received notification that it had been awarded £1.6 million in government funding to support vulnerable households.  This had to be used by 30 September 2022 and the grant was very similar to the Household Support Fund in that it had to be used to support financially vulnerable households with food and fuel and expenses linked to these.


A member of the sub-committee highlighted that school uniforms, especially where schools required items to be bought from one supplier, could be very expensive and asked how this could be overcome.  It was explained that, for those families eligible for support with uniform costs through the Poverty Intervention Fund, the £45 provided (per child) would be split, with £20 to the uniform supplier and the rest for spending on uniform items available in supermarkets.  It was noted that new statutory government guidance on uniform meant that, from the Autumn 2022, schools need to take steps to make uniform more affordable, including keeping the use of branded items to a minimum.  The local authority was working with a number of schools to re-write uniform policies in line with the guidance.


The Chair of the sub-committee thanked the officers for all the hard work that was being undertaken to support vulnerable residents.


It was agreed that the report be noted.

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