Waltham Forest Council declares cost-of-living emergency

At a meeting of full council on Thursday July 14, Waltham Forest Council agreed to declare a cost-of-living emergency and introduce extra support for its most vulnerable residents to help see them through the crisis.

Since autumn 2021, the council has distributed £2.46m of Household Support Funds, provided by central Government, to help residents with food, clothing, energy and water costs. This includes £25,000 in financial support to households working with the Early Help service to assist with bills, £146,700 in utilities and food vouchers to vulnerable households known to children social care services, and over £240,000 in housing costs.

The expanded support package will see a new £1m Fair Deal Jobs Programme launch later this month, connecting residents to good quality employment and learning opportunities in Waltham Forest with the aim of supporting 3,500 residents to gain new skills and qualifications.

Over 11,000 households in receipt of council tax support who do not receive the full relief will benefit from a one-off £75 reduction in their bills this summer, thanks to £1m extra funding by the council.

The council is also funding a universal programme of free activities for children aged 5-11, offering families a wide range of choices over the school summer holidays.

A further £2.3m of Household Support Fund will be distributed before September to address financial hardship and provide immediate relief. Much of this will be distributed by the Revenues and Benefits service through the enhanced Local Welfare Assistance scheme and through the Families Service. The council will also expand the local safety net through community outreach and support to local voluntary groups, including a partnership scheme with Citizens Advice Waltham Forest where residents in need can access £250 vouchers to cover food and utility bills.

As access to good quality, nutritious food becomes more difficult in the face of rising inflation, the council has agreed to launch a new model of borough-wide food distribution from August to scale up food supply to food banks and charity partners. Additionally, over £500,000 has been committed from April to September to help families with children eligible for free school meals.

Cllr Grace Williams, leader of the Council, said: “We do not have any time to sit on our hands and do nothing as this crisis looms. With over 11,000 people regularly using food banks in Waltham Forest, and the number is rising, we can’t sit back while the problem gets even worse.

“That’s why we have increased our support. I urge anyone who is experiencing difficulties not to struggle in silence but to reach out as soon as possible. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner we can assist.

“At the same time, we are putting pressure on central Government to step up and provide genuine assistance.

“We are calling for an emergency budget to tackle the impact of inflation and the rising cost of living, and for VAT on fuel bills to be cut. Universal Credit must be increased so it is in line with inflation, and local authorities who are leading the way supporting the most vulnerable members of our communities should be given a fair funding package to allow them to continue this vital work.”

The announcement follows the news that the energy price cap is likely to rise again, with households facing an expected increase of £800 on average this autumn. The Government has also increased National Insurance by 1.25 percentage points, which is projected to cost the average Waltham Forest family an additional £108 per year with residents now having the highest tax burden in 70 years.

Residents can find support and advice to help during the cost-of-living crisis on the Council’s website

Mick Ferris

Editor Email: mickferris@yellowad.co.uk