Many live in difficult times, with energy bills rising, mortgages soaring, petrol prices increasing, the food shop becoming extortionate, taxes going up and real terms support going down.
That’s why in his first week as Stevenage Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate in November 2022, Kevin Bonavia worked with fantastic local councillors, residents and community groups to set up a “Cost of Living Support” helpsheet website which gives residents a collection of organisations to reach out to for help, with all kinds of assistance ranging from coping with mortgage payments, to accessing utility replacements or food parcels.
A printed link to this page has been delivered to every household in Stevenage and the Villages.
One year later in November 2023 the information has been updated again to reflect the challenges of the new year and more help that is now available.
Here it is below:
Citizens Advice, Stevenage
Advice on your household finances, benefits, energy, scams, housing or anything else, get in touch. Trained advisers can help and give you the information you need to make the decisions that are right for you. Here’s how to contact them:
- online via https://www.stevenagecab.org.uk/email-advice-form
- over the telephone 0800 144 8848
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stevenage Credit Union
Offers loans at fair and reasonable rates, to help spread the cost in these difficult times. People can join Stevenage Credit Union online at www.stevenagecreditunion.com or
Telephone 07895 327 826
Visit the office at 11 The Hyde Stevenage SG2 9SD (Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9-12pm)
Stevenage Credit Union is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and all loans are subject to status
Stevenage Community Trust
Provides hardship grants, year round, to residents of Stevenage and surrounding villages. E.g. replacing cookers, washing machines, furniture. Heating grants can be applied for and Christmas gift cards are also available.
Referral only from a supporting agency (eg. Council, Social Services, CAB). www.stevenagecommunitytrust.org/grants
You can also see what other grants you may be entitled to here: https://grants-search.turn2us.org.uk/
Foodbanks and other food resources
Foodshed: Referral-based (contact them to find out who can refer you.) Located at the Vineyard Centre Unit 1, the Orbital Centre, Cockerel Close, Stevenage SG1 2NB. http://stevenage-vineyard.co.uk/compassion/foodshed.
People for People Stevenage: Can help with food, and reach out to the community for other items you may need, like furniture. Reach them on Facebook @peopleforpeoplestevenage or 92a High Street Stevenage SG1 3DW
Food Rescue Hub: Collects perfectly good food destined for landfill which they give out in return for a donation. They don’t have a branch in Stevenage but people from Stevenage are welcome to pick up food from their bases in Hitchin and Welwyn.
Tuesdays 9.30 am – 11.00am
The Attimore Hall Pub,
Welwyn Garden City, AL7 2AD
Thursdays 9.30 am – 11.00am
The Half Moon Pub
57 Queen Street
Hitchin, SG4 9TZ
You don’t need to book in advance. Bring your own reusable bag. Currently limiting to 2 bags per “rescuer”. There’s a suggested donation of at least £5 for 2 bags of shopping. More information here: https://www.foodrescuehub.uk/
Help with council tax
You may be eligible for a discount on your council tax bill depending on the types of people who live in your household, whether anyone is on a low income or receiving certain benefits, and what type of property you live in. Discounts range from 25% to 100%.
Help with water bills
Affinity Water offers a low-income fixed tariff (LIFT) to people who earn less than £17,005 a year or who receive certain benefits including Universal Credit or Job Seeker’s Allowance. If you qualify, you’ll receive a fixed-price clean water bill which in 2023/24 is fixed at £115.10. If you also receive a council tax reduction, you may be entitled to the higher rate “LIFT” discount so your clean water bill will be fixed at £76.70. If it helps, you can also pay your bill monthly throughout the year.
Thames Water has two schemes to help people finding it hard to pay their bills, WaterHelp and WaterSure. They currently offer a 50% discount on your bill through WaterHelp if your total household income is below £17,005 or your water bill is more than 5% of your net income.
If you have a water meter but find it difficult to cut your water usage because you have a large family or medical condition, they might be able to cap your bills through WaterSure. To be eligible, someone in your household must have a medical condition that requires extra water and receives a means-tested benefit, or there must be three or more children under the age of 19 living at the property.
Anglian Water provides a range of reduced rate tariffs for households on low incomes with discounts of up to 50%. To work out if you’re eligible, you need to complete their Extra Care Assessment either online or by ringing their Extra Care Support team. They enable customers to pay their bills weekly, fortnightly or monthly, as well as offering payment breaks to give people a chance to improve their financial situation.
Help with heating bills
Warm Home Discount Scheme:
Under this government scheme, you could get £150 off your electricity bill. You may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity and you’re eligible. The scheme will reopen in October 2023.
Winter Fuel Payments:
If you were born before September 26th 1956 you could get a Winter Fuel Payment of between £250 and £600 to help pay your heating bills. Pensioners will receive an extra ‘Pensioner Cost of Living Payment’, which is between £150 and £300, on top of the Winter Fuel Payment. If you’re eligible, you should receive this extra amount automatically this November or December 2023. If you think you should have received it last winter but didn’t, contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre.
Cold Weather Payments:
You could receive a Cold Weather Payment if you’re in receipt of certain benefits or Support for Mortgage Interest. You’ll get a payment if the average temperature in Stevenage falls to zero degrees celsius or lower over 7 consecutive days, or is forecast to be that temperature. The 2023 to 2024 scheme will start on 1 November 2023.
The Energy Saving Trust:
The Energy Saving Trust gives advice on how to save money on your energy bills.
National Energy Action:
NEA’s WASH Advice Service provides free advice on minimising your energy bills. It can also give advice on benefits and other ways to increase your household income.
Your energy supplier:
Energy companies operate various initiatives to assist people struggling to pay bills.
The EDF Customer Support Fund gives help with electricity or gas bill debts, and provides essential white goods such as a fridge or cooker.
Octopus Energy offers a range of help through its Octo Assist Fund including direct bill support, home energy visits, loaning thermal cameras to spot heat loss, and giving out free energy-efficient electric blankets.
The E.ON Next Energy Fund helps people facing financial hardship by giving grants to pay gas and electricity bills and by providing a replacement appliance such as a cooker, fridge, fridge-freezer or washing machine if yours has broken or is in poor condition.
A smart meter can help you track how much gas and electricity you’re using throughout the day and identify where you could save energy. If you don’t have one already, contact your energy supplier to arrange to have a smart meter installed.
Help with housing costs
The VRF (Vicar’s Relief Fund) provides emergency financial help to people across the UK who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Don’t be deterred by the charity’s title – it helps people from all religious backgrounds and none. They offer grants from £350 to £500 to pay a small debt or a rental deposit to prevent someone from losing their home or help them find a new one. Applications have to be made by a professional person who is supporting you but grants are issued within a few days.
Help with broadband and phone packages
Most providers of broadband and phone packages offer cheaper ‘social tariffs’ for people on certain benefits. They are like regular packages but at a lower price (usually £10-£20). Most social tariffs give broadband speeds which are fast enough to enable you to do video calls, shop online and stream films. Switching to a social tariff could cost nothing and the price won’t increase mid-contract. You might be able to switch to a social tariff if someone in your household claims Universal Credit, Pension Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support.
Help with managing debt
A number of organisations provide free, confidential support and advice, either online or via their helpline, to anyone worried about debt.
StepChange Debt Charity – www.stepchange.org or 0800 138 1111 (open Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and Saturday 9am to 2pm).
Debt Advice Foundation – www.debtadvicefoundation.org or 0800 043 40 50 (open Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm).
National Debtline – www.nationaldebtline.org or 0808 808 4000 (open Monday to Friday 9am to 8pm and on Saturdays 9.30am to 1pm).
Help for young people
If you are 18 or over and were born between 2002 and 2011, you may have a Child Trust Fund. Every child born between 2002 and 2011 was eligible to receive at least £250 in a savings pot which they could access once they reached 18. Recent research has shown that nearly a million young people have yet to claim their Child Trust Funds. An average account contains £1,900. The HMRC sends every 16-year-old information about finding their Child Trust Fund with their National Insurance letter. However, if you are unsure about whether you have a Child Trust Fund, then contact your bank or building society.
We will always be on your side, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us either, by clicking the contact button on our website.
Whether it’s our Parliamentary candidate, our councillors, our members or our volunteers, we are rooted in the community and care about your problems. We are all facing testing times, so ask for help when you need it.
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