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Help if you're struggling with living costs

The cost of living crisis affects all of us across society as the prices of everyday essentials are rising. We understand that many across West Oxfordshire are struggling to make ends meet.

A lot of support is available both nationally and locally that you might be able to access to help during these challenging times. We have listed below all the benefits, financial relief schemes, local support groups and other avenues for you to explore that might be able to help.

There are also schemes we provide at West Oxfordshire District Council such as the Council Tax Support scheme and support for people on housing benefit who can’t make their rent.

Many people aren’t aware that they can claim this support so please do take the time to check what you might be eligible for and let others know that they may be eligible for help.

Councillor Andy Graham – Leader of West Oxfordshire District Council

Check you’re not one of up to 7 million people in the UK missing out on income-related state benefits

An estimated £15bn of benefits are believed to go unclaimed each year. Use a free benefits calculator to find out what you could be entitled to.

Or contact Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire for one-to-one help to do this.

If you are turned down for a benefit, seek advice on whether to challenge the decision. Many benefit decisions are overturned, and organisations like Citizens Advice can offer advice about challenges.

Support from Government

You can find out more about what support is being provided by Government to help with the cost of living by visiting costoflivingsupport.campaign.gov.uk/

If you’re over State Pension age, check if you’re eligible for Pension Credit

Pension Credit (0800 99 1234) provides extra money for living costs and access to other help. Around a third of eligible pensioners don’t claim Pension Credit – often because they don't know they can or that they need to. Find out if you’re eligible and how much you could get using the Pension Credit calculator. People of State Pension age may be entitled to Pension Credit even though they may have modest savings, or a retirement income or own their own home. An award of Pension Credit can provide access to a range of other benefits such as help with housing costs, Council Tax, heating bills and, for those aged 75 or over, a free TV licence.

Get help with childcare costs

Over one million families are missing out on up to £2,000 a year towards childcare costs – check what help you could get. Use this calculator to find out how much you could get towards approved childcare, including: free childcare for children aged between two and four help with childcare costs if your child is under 16 (or under 17 and disabled).

Check if you can claim a discretionary housing payment

If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn't cover all your rent, check to see if you can make a claim for a discretionary housing payment.

Check if you're eligible for Council Tax Support

You may be eligible for council tax support through West Oxfordshire District Council if you receive certain benefits or are on low income. You can find out more on our website here.

Help if you’re experiencing illness or disability

Check if you or your family may be entitled to benefits for those experiencing illness or disability. 

Check your eligibility for Carer's Allowance

If you are a carer, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance and/or an extra amount called the ‘carer element’ within Universal Credit. This could mean £69.70 a week in Carer's Allowance if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week and you, the person you care for and the type of care you provide meets the criteria.

Contact your energy supplier if you can't pay energy bills

Contact your energy supplier if you are struggling to pay for energy or think you may get into difficulty – if you already have energy debts, some larger suppliers offer grants to help pay this off. 

The Better Housing Better Health service, provides free, local telephone support to help people stay warm and well in their homes (e.g energy advice, support with energy bills, applying for energy efficiency grants etc.). In addition, certain residents might be eligible for a home visit for those people where the telephone isn’t as effective in working out what help is available for them.

Last year BHBH helped nearly 750 residents and found a total of £36,000 that people had missed out on. Residents can contact the BHBH service directly by calling the free phone helpline on 0800 107 0044 (Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm) or can be referred directly via the BHBH website.

Get help if you're struggling to afford enough food

If you are struggling to afford food and/or are in fuel need contact Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire. The Household Support Fund (HSF) has been launched by the government to offer a very important lifeline for vulnerable households who may struggle to afford life’s essentials.

The money will primarily be used to help pay for food, energy, and water bills for vulnerable households, but other costs can also be covered. The funds are not restricted to people in receipt of benefits and there is no requirement that you must be employed or that you must be unemployed.

Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire distribute the support in the form of food vouchers on behalf of West Oxfordshire District Council.

How to apply

Guidelines and criteria

Supporting Families and individuals in most need who are struggling to afford food and other living costs including energy, water bills and transport related costs. The latest scheme will remain open until the funds are spent.

Who is eligible?

  • People living in West Oxfordshire who have not had a similar payment from Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire in the last six months; and
    • People with a priority debt (e.g. Rent arrears, Mortgage arrears, Gas, Electricity, Court Fine, Tax or National Insurance debt etc) OR
    • People in receipt of means-tested benefits

Applicants must be aged 18 and over. To check if you are eligible and to access the scheme, you can either email info@citizensadvicewestoxon.org.uk or ring 01993 892063. 

Please note this is not an emergency fund and there could be a short delay in replying to emails/telephone calls. If you need urgent assistance please ring Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire on Freephone 0808 278 7908.

Good Food Oxford is continuously updating the Oxfordshire food access map to signpost anyone in food need to community food services such as food banks, community larders, and food projects. Most foodbanks require a referral to access them - this can come from many groups - a doctor, housing association, local council, charity, the council. Larders and Fridges do not work on a referral basis and provide either low cost or free food which otherwise would go to waste. 

See if you can get Healthy Start vouchers

If you're at least ten weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old, you might be able to get free vitamins and Healthy Start (0300 330 7010) vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk.

Apply for free school meals

If you or your child receive certain benefits, you can apply for free school meals from Year 3 and above.

Seek advice about debt

If you’re in debt, seek advice early rather than let things spiral out of control. Contact Citizens Advice West Oxfordshire, StepChange, National Debtline or Crosslight Advice for help.

Apply for a discount on water bills

Households on low income can apply for financial support through their local water provider. Please visit their website to see what support is available.

Advice if you’re renting

The government has produced advice and guidelines about what you should do if you’re having difficulty paying your rent. It also explains what your landlord should and shouldn’t be doing. 

Government council tax rebate and recent Government support announcements

West Oxfordshire District Council is distributing the £150 council tax rebate announced in February to help with the cost of living along with a discretionary scheme for those not eligible for the original rebate. You can find out more here

The Government announced (May 2022) that all domestic electricity customers in Great Britain will receive a £400 reduction in their electricity costs from October 2022. There will be no requirement to pay it back. Households will not need to apply for the scheme and, in most cases, the Government expects electricity suppliers to apply the reduction automatically to bills from October 2022.

The Government announced additional support (26 May) that will provide further funding for some of these measures. This Government guidance explains how and when people in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits will receive an extra payment to help with living costs.

Looking after your mental health

We all see our mental health go up and down. We all face times when we have lower mood, stress or anxiety. Where these feelings and experiences persist, impacting our lives and making it difficult to cope with everyday activities, then this is a mental health problem. Sometimes there are things you can change for yourself to make things better. Take time to check how you’re feeling and if you are worried about anything talk to someone. Getting help early can make all the difference.

Key support and contacts in Oxfordshire

There are several resources available if you need to talk to someone on any topic regarding your mental health. Here are some below:

  • Oxfordshire Safe Haven - Our warm and friendly team are here to offer support to adults (18+) living in Oxfordshire either in person or at the end of the phone. Nobody should suffer alone – please call us. Phone 01865 903 037 Email osh@oxfordshiremind.org.uk
    Open from 11.30am – 9.30pm, 7 days a week
  • Connection Support is a local charity that provides flexible and tailored support and advice to adults and families. You can contact them on 01865 711267.
  • The Mind Guide (Mental health services directory in Oxfordshire)
  • The Youth in Mind Guide (Young people's mental health services in Oxfordshire)

In the event of a crisis here are some organisations who can help

  • Text SHOUT to 85258. This is a free 24/7 crisis text service run by Shout
  • Papyrus UK – Prevention of young suicide 0800 068 4141
  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) 0800 58 58 58Designed to engage men, provides listening services, information and support for anyone who needs to talk, including a web chat.

Other helpful resources

 

Help accessing health services

Through the NHS there is a range of support to help people access health services such as support with travel costs and financial support for people on low income. Find out more on the NHS website.