This week, our Cabinet received an update on the work of the council and our partners in tackling the Cost-of-Living Emergency.
Since declaring an emergency in July of last year, we have set up the Cost-of-Living Support Fund, a £2 million pot of money that is being used to give direct help to residents and increase the capacity of local organisations who are helping those struggling with rising costs. The Cabinet heard that, so far, £1 million of this fund has been allocated with a focus on crisis support and addressing immediate challenges. This includes:
- £100,000 to community groups who are supporting residents in financial need with emergency assistance, such as the Commonside Trust, the Dons Local Action Group, and Carers Support Merton
- £50,000 to Sustainable Merton to increase the amount of food packages they can deliver through their Community Fridge programme
- £400,000 towards initiatives that reduce heating costs, such as the Warm and Well programme, which helps low-income households to improve their energy efficiency
- £200,000 to Citizens Advice Merton and Lambeth to expand its debt advice service, so residents can receive in-person advice at our libraries
- £200,000 to go towards direct payments of £60 to residents who receive Council Tax Support
- £25,000 to the Polish Family Association to provide essential provisions to new arriving Ukrainians.
In addition to this financial support, we have been offering practical help, such as our cost-of living events, which have been taking place in the borough’s libraries since July. These events have seen local charities, community organisations and teams from across the council come together to offer support and advice to those who attended. As well as receiving guidance, all households that attended were also given a £10 supermarket voucher to help with the weekly shop. To date there have been six events, and over 1,200 people have come along.
We have also invited all residents to come into our libraries if they need to save on heating at home as part of the Merton Warm Spaces project. Those that come along can take part in the hundreds of events we run each month, and access a range of support available including help with benefits, energy saving, and assistance to get online.
Any resident who is concerned about their finances can visit Merton’s Cost-of’-Living webpage, which contains information on a wide variety of issues, from housing, to benefits, to energy efficiency, and much more.
Councillor Billy Christie, Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, said: “We know that families and individuals all around the borough are struggling as a result of this Cost-of-Living Emergency, and we are determined to do everything we can to help them.
“Whilst councils up and down the country – including Merton – are facing unprecedented budgetary pressures, we have found £2 million which we are targeting to have the biggest possible impact on those that are in the most need.
“Together with our partners, we are also advising residents on how they can navigate these difficult times, with support available on debt advice, cutting bills, making sure you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to and much more.
“Our local solutions cannot end this national problem, but we can act to protect the most vulnerable from the worst effects of this emergency.”