Cost of living: what aid is available in Preston and how do I get help with my bills?
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The event, held at Gujarat Hindu Society Temple on South Meadow Lane, played host to more than 70 delegates from various community groups, educational institutions, businesses, charities and services to share ideas on how they could work together to support Preston’s struggling residents. Council leader Matthew Brown, said: “I want to reflect on what is unique about Preston and how we are going to work with the strengths of the city and its people - particularly those working in the voluntary and community sectors to deal with the immediate crisis we face. We also have a commitment to continue our longer-term work of building wealth in our communities by continuing to champion the real living wage and delivering more affordable homes, at a time when private rents and house prices have increased.”
What help is available?
There is a Household Support Fund, that can help with food, clothing, gas, electricity, water and household essentials. The fund from The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is to assist Preston residents who do not have enough resources to meet their immediate or short term needs and need help and support with essential bills. Those on a low income will start to receive payments of £324 into their bank accounts this week.
How can I access this?
By visiting the Help In Preston website which includes a cost of living support hub, a noticeboard section for local events and a service directory. It also supports employment, skills and training. The recent Energy Price Guarantee will reduce the unit cost of electricity and gas so that a typical household in Great Britain pays, on average, around £2,500 a year on their energy bill, for the next two years, from 1 October 2022. The discount is automatic. If you get a message telling you that you need to apply, or asking for your bank or credit card details, this could be a scam. The Energy Bill Support Scheme is part of the government's wider support to help households with the cost of living. It's open to all domestic households who use electricity.
What is Preston City Council doing to help?
The council has also signed up to the Cosy Homes in Lancashire (CHiL) initiative which provides advice and, in many cases, physical improvements to the energy efficiency of people’s homes especially those on low incomes, and in the run up to winter access to the Homes Upgrade Grants for eligible households and properties. It also has a dedicated housing advice team and offering advice.
What if you are on a low income?
Those on a low income may be eligible for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme. People already in receipt of this support and are still struggling may be able to access the discretionary Exceptional Hardship Fund. The Council Tax Energy rebate has seen households across Preston receive payments to help with rising energy costs in the form of Post Office vouchers which they can cash in to receive their Council Tax energy rebate. Those properties occupied by a resident (or residents) considered to be "severely mentally impaired" in band A to D will receive a "top up" of up to £30 in addition to the £150 Council Tax Rebate.