Cost of Living Crisis
The Government have set up a cost of living support page where you can discover what support is available to help with the cost of living. This includes income and disability benefits, bills and allowances, childcare, housing and travel. This is part of the Help for Households campaign.
Wokingham Borough Council have a dedicated cost of living webpage which links to the assistance they are able to provide. The council is working in partnership Age UK Berkshire, Citizens Advice Wokingham, First Days Children’s Charity, Wokingham Foodbank and Wokingham United Charities to respond to issues locally.
The group, known as The Hardship Alliance, will be launching a range of initiatives to help residents from across the area.
Citizens Advice Wokingham have created a free-to-use benefits calculator, a budgeting tool, and have shared the five key cost of living issues their advisers are helping residents with. They run the One Front Door service on behalf of WBC, co-ordinating responses for residents.
Money Saving Expert have produced a cost of living help guide which may be a useful source of information. They also have a dedicated cost of living page. They have produced guides on how to heat the human, not the home, a list of easy energy saving tips and energy mythbusting.
The Wokingham Foodbank, which is supported by the Trussell Trust, provide food and support to local people who have been referred to them by one of the 70 care agencies they work with in Wokingham. If you cannot afford food, please call 0808 278 7958 to speak to Wokingham Citizens Advice who are a referral agency partner and can arrange receipt of a voucher. To find out more please visit the Wokingham Foodbank website.
These are places you can go to keep warm and get support through the winter.
- Monday – Salvation Army, Chalfont Close (RG6 5UG) 10am to 12 noon – tea, coffee, biscuits, games and chats
- Monday – St Nicholas Church, Sutcliffe Avenue (RG6 7JN) 2.15pm to 3.30pm
- Monday – Lower Earley Library, Chalfont Close (RG6 5HZ) 9:30am to 5pm
- Monday – Loddon Valley Leisure Centre cafe (RG6 4GD) 7am to 3:30pm
- Tuesday – St Nicholas Church, Sutcliffe Avenue (RG6 7JN) 10am to 12 noon
- Tuesday – Trinity Church, Chalfont Close (RG6 5HZ) 1pm to 4pm and 4pm to 6pm
- Tuesday – Lower Earley Library, Chalfont Close (RG6 5HZ) 9:30am to 5pm
- Tuesday – Loddon Valley Leisure Centre cafe (RG6 4GD) 7am to 3:30pm
- Wednesday – Lower Earley Baptist Church, Maiden Place (RG6 3HE) 11.30am to 1.30pm – hot drinks, chance to chat, games and more
- Wednesday – Brookside over 60s club, Brookside Close (RG6 7HG) 2pm to 4pm
- Wednesday – Loddon Valley Leisure Centre cafe (RG6 4GD) 7am to 3:30pm
- Thursday – Salvation Army, Chalfont Close (RG6 5UG) 10am to noon
- Thursday – St Nicholas Church, Sutcliffe Avenue (RG6 7JN) 2pm to 4pm
- Thursday – Trinity Refresh Café, Chalfont Close (RG6 5HZ) 2pm to 4pm – wellbeing café
- Thursday – Brookside Youth, Brookside Close (RG6 7HG) 7pm to 9pm
- Thursday – Lower Earley Library, Chalfont Close (RG6 5HZ) 9:30am to 7pm
- Thursday – Loddon Valley Leisure Centre cafe (RG6 4GD) 7am to 3:30pm
- Friday – St Nicholas Wellbeing Café (RG6 7JN) 10am to 12 noon – wellbeing café
- Friday – Brookside Church, Brookside Close (RG6 7HG) 3.30pm to 6pm
- Friday – Lower Earley Library, Chalfont Close (RG6 5HZ) 9:30am to 5pm
- Friday – Loddon Valley Leisure Centre cafe (RG6 4GD) 7am to 3:30pm
- Saturdays – Trinity Church, Chalfont Close (RG6 5HZ) 10am to 12 noon (second and fourth Saturdays of the month only)
- Saturdays – Lower Earley Library, Chalfont Close (RG6 5HZ) 9:30am to 4pm
Winter Warmer Project
First Days Children’s charity are working with SHARE Wokingham, Wokingham Borough Council and The Hardship Alliance to distribute essential items across Wokingham Borough to residents as part of the Winter Warmer Project. Hundreds of energy efficient items are on offer to residents for free if they are struggling this winter. Residents can switch to these items to ensure they are warm and to help lower their energy consumption. Items available include:
- Slow cookers
- Air fryers
- Heated clothes dryers
- Heated blankets
- Thermal socks
- Shower timers
- Other items which can help
To access the support available, please contact the First Days Family Support Team by filling in this form.
Financial support is available
Wokingham Borough Council have paid out to residents in Council Tax bands A to D through the Council Tax Energy Rebates scheme.
The discretionary scheme helps people living in bands E to H if you meet certain criteria. See the Council Tax discretionary rebate pages for full details.
Other financial help available includes:
- Council Tax discounts and exemptions – including discounts for single people, carers, students and more
- Council Tax reductions if you claim certain benefits
- £150 Disability Cost of Living Payment if you get certain disability benefits
- Check your eligibility for a range of money help and advice
- Get help with your rent
- Pension credit if you’re 66 or older
- Payments to help with living costs
Local Welfare Provision is also available. This is a scheme run by WBC to help people who are in a crisis or emergency situation and where additional assistance would help prevent the crisis or emergency from escalating.
Household Support Fund
If you are struggling to pay for food, energy bills and other household essentials, help could be available now.
The latest round of the Household Support Fund is now open for applications. This is open to those struggling with rising costs of living as well as people in receipt of benefits.
Our partners can provide £120 in the form of food, fuel or cash vouchers.
- Call Citizens Advice Wokingham One Front Door on 0808 278 7958
- Apply on Citizens Advice Wokingham website
- Call Age UK Berkshire on (0118) 959 4242
- Email Age UK Berkshire
Food for Children during School Holidays
If you live in Wokingham Borough and have a child or children on benefits-related free school meals, you can apply for £15 per week for each eligible child just ahead of half-term, the Christmas and Easter holidays. Apply for School Holiday Food Vouchers
Help for children
- Free school meals are available for families who get some income-based support
- Help with activities for children in the school holidays through the Holiday, Activity and Food programme for those who get free school meals
- All three to four year-olds can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. This is usually taken as 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year
- Healthy Start vouchers to help pay for milk, fruit and veg
- Pupils getting means-tested free school meals can get £15 per week, per eligible child, during school holidays through the Household Support Fund. This applies for half terms, Christmas and Easter holidays. Apply through First Days Children’s Charity
Help keeping your house warm
- See if you’re eligible for the Warm Home Discount for money off your electricity bill
- Ensure you get your Winter Fuel Payment if you were born before 25 September 1956, to help pay your heating bills
- Remember you could claim the Cold Weather Payment if you get certain support and the average temperature is recorded as forecast to be zero degrees Celsius or below for seven days in a row (applies from 1st November to 31st March)
- Make your home more energy efficient to lower your fuel bills through the help to heat scheme
- There’s also options for energy saving at home, including cheaper ways to install energy saving materials at your property
- Check whether you’re eligible to register on the Priority Services register from Ofgem, a free support service that makes sure extra help is available to people in vulnerable situations
Sustainable Warmth Grant
Grant funding is available under the Sustainable Warmth scheme for households that have a gross annual income of less than £30,000 or are in receipt of an eligible benefit, to deliver home energy efficiency improvements, such as; Insulation, Low Carbon Heating and Solar PV. Your home must also have an energy efficiency rating of D, E, F or G.
Turning down the flow temperature on your combi boiler to 60°C or below can knock money off your heating bill each year and reduce energy waste from your home. The average household could currently save around £112 per year on their heating bill by lowering their boiler flow temperature. Heating homes with fossil fuels accounts for 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions. So by using energy more efficiently, we can cut carbon emissions and save money on our heating bills at the same time. To find out more please visit moneysavingboilerchallenge.com.
Staying warm and well this winter
There are a number of resources to advise you on how to stay warm and well this winter.
- The UK Health Security Agency have produced a Keep Warm Keep Well guide on coping with cold weather and COVID-19
- The NHS have developed a Stay Well this Winter leaflet, with recommendations on what to do and directions if you need help
- Age UK have worked with the NHS to produce Top Tips for keeping warm and well with advise on easy things you can do to help yourself stay healthy this winter
Help with household bills
Households on low income can apply for financial support through their local water provider.
Energy bill grants
If you’re in debt to your energy supplier, you might be able to get a grant to help pay it off. The following energy suppliers offer grants to their customers:
- British Gas Energy Support Fund – apply for a grant on the British Gas Energy Trust website
- Scottish Power Hardship Fund – apply for a grant on the Scottish Power Hardship Fund website
- Ovo Energy Fund – apply for a grant on the Ovo Energy Fund website
- E. ON Energy Fund – apply for a grant on the E.ON Energy Fund website
- E. ON Next Energy Fund – apply for a grant on the E.ON Next Energy Fund website
- EDF Energy Customer Support Fund – sign up to the priority services register to apply for a grant on the EDF Energy website
- Bulb Energy Fund – apply for a grant on the Bulb Energy Fund website
- Octopus ‘Octo Assist Fund’ – apply for a grant on the Octopus website
- Shell Energy Support Fund – apply for help on the Shell Energy website
If your supplier isn’t listed, it’s a good idea to contact them directly to see what extra support they can give you.
Broadband and phone help
Help with finding cheaper broadband or phone offers for eligible households is available from Ofcom.
Assistance with online PIP appeals
Reading Welfare Rights advocates for the most vulnerable citizens, many of whom experience a debilitating mixture of physical and mental health conditions. They support individuals who are entitled to state aid, but who, due to the complex nature of the benefits system, cannot access the benefits they are due without our intervention.
Their advocacy services go well beyond providing advice. At every stage of the Benefits process, they can act as the client’s representative, including being their legal appointee, speaking on their behalf to government agencies. They can even represent their client at Tribunals, arguing cases before a judge.
Learn more about what they do on the Reading Welfare Rights website.
Reducing energy costs
The charity Energy Saving Trust has an incredible amount of advice for those looking to save money on energy bills (savings are based on averages).
Here are some of the top energy saving hacks if you’re looking to save:
- Turn appliances off at the plug socket (saves around £65 per year)
- Draught proof windows and doors (can save around £125 per year)
- Turn off lights you’re not using (saves around £25 per year)
- Use a 30-degree cycle on your washing machine and reduce runs by one per week (£34 per year)
- Avoid using the tumble dryer (saves £70 per year)
- Keep your shower to four minutes (saves £95 per year) or swap the bath for a shower (saves £20 per year)
- Avoid overfilling the kettle (saves £13 per year)
- Fill the dishwasher each time (saves £17 per year)
- Insulate your hot water cylinder (saves £70 per year)
A quick rule of thumb to calculate the cost of running an appliance has been shared by Martin Lewis:
- Find its wattage
- Know 1000W is a Kilowatt(kW)
- (As of October 2022) you pay roughly 34p per kW per hour
So 100W (a tenth of a kW) appliance on for two hours is 3.4p an hour x 2 = 6.8p
Please note this rough formula isn’t correct for ovens, fridges and dishwashers as they only operate at max wattage for short periods, but is useful as a rough guide.
A visual budgeting guide to help you understand the estimated cost of many domestic appliances has been produced by Bloomberg and can be found below.
Help with your health
You or your family may be entitled to benefits for those experiencing illness or disability. These include:
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for adults under state retirement age
- Attendance Allowance for those over state retirement age
- Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for children under 16, new claims are not means-tested
Help with NHS prescriptions and dental care
If you are on a low income, the NHS Low Income Scheme could help you pay for some items. This includes:
- NHS prescription charges
- NHS dental treatment charges
- the cost of sight tests, glasses and contact lenses
- the cost of travelling to receive NHS treatment
- NHS wigs and fabric supports (check with your hospital for their arrangements for supplying NHS wigs)
How much help you get depends on your weekly income and necessary outgoings, plus any savings or investments you have at the time you apply.
If you are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless within 56 days, please make a referral via the Housing Jigsaw website. Select the option ‘Are you homeless or at risk of being made homeless‘.
Once the referral has been received, the WBC Duty Homelessness Prevention Officer will contact you. Wokingham Borough Council can only accept referrals which are made through Housing Jigsaw.
If you are unable to make a referral, please contact WBC as soon as possible by:
- Emailing: [email protected]
- Phoning: 0118 974 6000 during office hours or 0800 212 111 outside of office hours
More details of the process and the help available from WBC can be found on the WBC Homelessness webpage.
If you are aware of someone sleeping rough in the borough, let the council know by sending an alert to StreetLink. The details you provide will be sent to the council, who will use the information to find the individual, offer them support, and explore ways to find them accommodation.
Talk to someone if you need help
You can also contact One Front Door, a service led by Citizens Advice Wokingham that helps residents find the most appropriate support.
If you are struggling to cope and need help, the following organisations may be of assistance.
SHOUT is the UK’s first and only free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who feels they need immediate support. Text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258 any time, day or night. The service is free from all major networks. To find out more please visit the Shout website.
Samaritans is a free service that can be contacted on 116 123 or by email to [email protected] at any time. Whatever you are going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. They can help whether you are having a difficult time yourself or are worried about someone else. Please visit the Samaritans website for more information.
NHS England can help with a mental health crisis or emergency should you need immediate expert advice or an assessment. Contact Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust on 111 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To find out more about this provision, visit the NHS website.
Help whilst unemployed and seeking work
Whether you are unemployed and seeking work, or out of work and in need of extra support, there is extra support available for you.
- Cost of living employment support
- Find the financial support you can get if you’re out of work
- Options for adult education to build your skills
- Support finding a job
- Cheaper broadband options for people who are out of work
- Find your nearest JobCentre Plus
- Employment and careers support for young people
I’m not struggling but want to help others
As the cost of living crisis continues through this winter, the borough’s groups need more people to help out.
Sign up to volunteer through the Wokingham Volunteer Centre, working with local community, voluntary and charitable groups.
If you would like to help ensure that on one in our local community has to go hungry, you can support the work of the Wokingham Foodbank through donating money or food, volunteering your time, or partnering with them as a business. For more details please see the Wokingham Foodbank website. A donation point can be found in the Earley Town Council Helpshop.
Local help from Torch Help Hub
Torch is a network of local Help Hubs set up and run by volunteers from local churches with the aim of providing a helping hand to those who otherwise cannot get help and tend to fall through the gaps of existing support or provision. They offer free practical help when you need it, free support to help you live well, and community action. They can be contacted via the Torch website, by email or by phone on 0118 380 0260.