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News release from: 12/10/2023

New report highlights Council’s cost of living support

New report highlights Council’s cost of living support

A new report outlines how South Cambridgeshire District Council has supported residents during the cost of living crisis so far – including through over 100 food parcels and establishing a Mobile Food Hub. 

The report has been published to update councillors on the cost of living related schemes agreed at Cabinet in March 2023, as well as looking back at the support provided in the last year, such as electric blankets, slow cookers, and Warm Packs. 

The Council declared a cost of living crisis at its September 2022 Council meeting. An initial support package of nearly £400,000 was then agreed by Cabinet in November, including a grant from the Integrated Care Board (ICB) of £211,000. 

In March 2023 the Council entered the second phase of its cost of living crisis response with £206,000 to create self-sustaining projects that could continue beyond initial funding and provide support to residents across the district experiencing hardship.  

Cllr Bill Handley, Lead Cabinet Member for Communities at South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “We are determined to provide as much support as possible to our residents throughout this cost of living crisis. It has impacted so many people, from those already struggling to those with moderate to good incomes. It is gratifying to look back on the support we have been able to give in the last year and the positive impact it has had on those affected and we will continue to provide similar support in the coming winter months.”

Phase one of the cost of living support package saw:   

  • Over 400 people provided with either an electric blanket, a slow cooker, or in most cases both. It is estimated that the average electric blanket recipient saved £384.93 on their heating bill from January to March if they used their electric blanket for warmth instead.  
  • 25 Warm Hubs operating across South Cambridgeshire for a combined total of 2,942 hours and saw 9,363 attendee visits from October 2022 to March 2023. 
  • 100 Warm Packs containing a blanket, hot water bottle, thermos flask, thermal socks, a hat, and gloves were distributed to residents struggling with fuel poverty and the cost of living crisis.  
  • £2,000 in donations from residents and businesses which supplemented the Council’s funds to supply extra energy-saving appliances.  

Kit Connick, Chief Officer Partnerships & Strategy with NHS Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, part of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Integrated Care System, said: “We’ve heard first-hand from local people that the rising cost of living is impacting their health and wellbeing. Concerns about money can make it more difficult to buy and prepare healthy food, reduce people’s ability to pay for activities to stay fit and healthy, as well as causing stress and worry.

“That’s why our Integrated Care System funded programmes to support people with the cost of living across the whole of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough. We’re pleased to have played a role in helping local people manage during a period that’s been difficult for many. We will continue to support our local communities as we head into this year’s colder months.”

The phase two of the cost of living support package has already included:  

  • Setting up a mobile food hub in partnership with Hope CIC, which visits 6 locations weekly across South Cambridgeshire. Since the Mobile Food Hub started at the end of June, it has supported 217 individuals, with many visiting more than once.  
  • Continuing to provide free food parcels containing a week’s worth of food to residents who either cannot travel to their nearest foodbank or need food in an emergency. 107 food parcels have been delivered since the scheme began in January 2023.  
  • Evolving 13 Warm Hubs into Community Hubs where residents can access further cost of living support. They received 11,216 visits from April 2023 to July 2023. 
  • Distributing a leaflet focussing on Council Tax Support, and other areas of support, with every Council Tax payment reminder to ensure that those who couldn’t pay and were eligible for support were made aware of all the help available.  
  • Creating a Sustainable Food Network where the Council provides drop-in advice sessions at foodbanks and has set up a messaging platform containing all known Foodbanks in South Cambridgeshire to ensure that no food goes to waste if there is a surplus. 
  • Establishing a cross-departmental group to further study how the Council can better use data to target areas of support. 

Over the next few months, the Council will be working to deliver:  

  • 500 electric blankets to residents struggling with the high cost of energy this winter.  
  • Community vegetable gardens to encourage more donations of fresh food to those in need through South Cambridgeshire’s developing foodbank network.    

The cost of living support update report will be discussed at Scrutiny and Overview Committee on 19 October 2023.