Households in North Yorkshire struggling amid the cost of living crisis will be able to claim supermarket vouchers to help pay for food and other essentials over the winter months.
The fourth phase of the Household Support Fund is being rolled out to just under 22,500 people across the county who are eligible.
It will provide a one-off payment in supermarket e-vouchers to ease the pressure of global inflation.
People who will receive the Household Support Fund payments are:
- Residents who received housing benefit on, or between, 26 January, 2023, and 25 February, 2023, but did not qualify for the cost of living payment made in April and May 2023 for people on low income benefits or tax credits. They will receive a single e-voucher for £450.
- Residents who were getting the maximum discount to pay their council tax bill through the means-tested Council Tax Reduction Scheme, as of 14 August, 2023. They will receive a single e-voucher for £110.
The scheme was initially set up by the Department for Work and Pensions to help people meet the cost of energy bills, food and other essentials as the country recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tens of thousands of households in North Yorkshire have already benefited from the first three rounds of the fund, which has provided vouchers to those most in need as well as access to other support.
Eighteen grants have also been awarded to providers of free or low-cost food across the county, to ensure local food access support is available in communities over the winter.
The national criteria has been updated for the fourth phase of the scheme to help those who missed out on other cost of living support from the Government. However, residents receiving just a partial reduction in their council tax do not qualify for the Household Support Fund scheme.
Executive member for corporate services, Cllr David Chance, said: “Families are continuing to face immense financial challenges in North Yorkshire, like all parts of the country, with soaring energy and food bills, but I believe by working in partnership with the Government, we can provide the support that is required.
“The Household Support Fund has been a lifeline for many people in North Yorkshire who are struggling financially as inflation continues to present challenges. I am pleased that the Government has provided additional funding. As before, we will continue to prioritise supporting the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Eligible households will receive a letter from us this month (September) containing an individual code. This code allows them to download a supermarket e-voucher quickly and easily through the online portal, with the option of a printed version.
The process has been designed to be user-friendly and the vast majority of people redeem their vouchers without any assistance, but residents who need support can get help over the phone or on email from the council’s customer service centre team. Face-to-face help is also on hand at eight council offices across the county as well as all North Yorkshire libraries. Details of these local venues and contact details for the council’s customer service centre are included in the letters.
Customer service teams at a number of council offices across the county along with staff and volunteers at 42 libraries in North Yorkshire will be on hand to support people who feel less confident in accessing their vouchers online.
Head of libraries, Hazel Smith, said: “Libraries are always regarded as safe, welcoming places; always at the heart of their communities.
“We’ve helped many people redeem their vouchers across all our libraries, as have the council’s customer service teams, and it’s always such a satisfying experience.
“Our staff and volunteers are here to help anyone who needs a bit of extra support, providing they bring their letter and one of the forms of ID mentioned with them.
“A family member, carer or friend may collect the payment on their behalf. They must also bring the letter and the identification document containing the name and address of the person to whom the letter with the barcode is addressed.”
Cllr Chance added: “I would also urge anyone who is eligible and gets a letter to make sure they do redeem their voucher by Tuesday, 24 October. Nobody will know when you use your voucher in the supermarket that you’ve had a Household Support Fund payment, it will look like any other voucher.
“There is no need to apply for your e-voucher or phone the council. If you are eligible, we will write to you with instructions on how to redeem it.
“We are also asking people to be vigilant of fraudsters claiming to be representing the council and looking to take advantage of the challenging circumstances people are facing, so please be aware we will not ask for your bank account details.”
The latest round of the Household Support Fund has also been used to supplement other schemes which will help residents with their household costs. This includes support for food banks and other schemes providing free food across the county.
A further £400,000 has been invested in the North Yorkshire local assistance fund, which provides emergency support with food and utilities and a support scheme managed by North Yorkshire Citizens Advice and Law Centre, which helps people struggling to pay their energy bills, has received £500,000.