THE council will be sending cost of living vouchers to thousands of households struggling to cope with soaring energy bills and food prices in Reading through the difficult months ahead.
With families and individuals in Reading understandably worried about the rising cost of heating homes and food shopping bills, Reading Borough Council has designed a targeted local scheme which gets support to residents who need it the most.
Following a change in Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) grant conditions, the council chose to streamline its targeted support to Reading residents by combining food and energy support into one cost of living voucher, covering the funding period 1 October 2022 – 31 March 2023. The financial support available has been spread across a range of residents, including young people, families and older residents, which are the same groups supported in previous funding rounds.
The council’s cost of living vouchers will be distributed before Christmas as follows:
Reading Borough Council already has contact details for eligible households and they will be contacted directly with the cost of living vouchers, so there is no need to contact the council.
In addition, around 350 Reading households receiving Housing Benefit and on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, but on no other DWP benefit, will receive a £650 payment per household. This will bring these residents into line with residents who received £650 directly from Department for Work and Pensions. This support will follow in the new year.
Funding for the scheme is through the national Household Support Fund. The overall funding amount allocated to the Council by the DWP was £1,130,648.94.
Reading Council Leader Jason Brock said:
“Given the high level of need across the borough – which is increasing all the time as prices continue to rise – the Council has designed a support package which makes the most of the funding available, whether that is families struggling to put food on the table, or older people who are avoiding switching on their heating because of the extortionate costs. These are residents who would ordinarily struggle anyway, without prices rising.
“Thousands of eligible households will receive support vouchers before Christmas. This includes families eligible for free school meals, older people and other households receiving housing benefit and on the Council’s own Council Tax reduction scheme.
“Notwithstanding the steep rises in inflation and the fact wages are failing to keep up, the Council’s allocation from Government for Reading remains the same as the previous year. The removal of Government restrictions on how the money can be spent has given the Council more flexibility in designing a local scheme that provides the biggest possible benefit to residents who may be struggling, which we believe this local targeted scheme achieves. It is important to say the same groups of people are being supported as in previous funding rounds, but we know that more people are becoming eligible for this support as the cost of living crisis deepens.
“The Council already holds an up to date list of eligible households and they will be contacted directly, so there is no need to contact the Council. I would remind any and all eligible residents that they can apply for the Council Tax Support Scheme at any time via our website, www.reading.gov.uk/council-tax/.”