Extra council cash has been found to help those in East Devon struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, writes local democracy reporter, Rob Kershaw. eastdevonnews.co.uk
East Devon District Council (EDDC) has agreed to change the name of its Covid-19 Hardship Fund to the Cost-of-Living Hardship fund, with the money left over from the pandemic support scheme being used to help households in need.
It follows a meeting of the council in October 2022, during which Councillors asked officers to create “an additional discretionary energy support fund based on evidence from the poverty dashboard data.”
Currently, the district council has £257,000 left from the renamed scheme, and it intends to use it to provide “targeted” assistance to those struggling to make ends meet.
The fund is currently due to be rolled out on April 1,2023, after the end of the current Housing Support Fund (HSF) being delivered across Devon.
Under the HSF scheme, qualifying households in the county receive grants of up to £650 to help with bills, enabling them to avoid falling behind on their council tax.
This scheme, which in East Devon runs on a budget of a third of a million pounds, is being delivered through vouchers that must be collected before the end of March. Any money not used by then will be taken back.
However, if the HSF cash runs out before March 31, EDDC may start eating into the £257,000 pot, playing virtually the same role as HSF.
The difference is that additional groups in need of support can be helped by the cost-of-living fund, but they are yet to be identified.
As for energy bills, EDDC will soon roll-out an Additional Support Fund – a £400 payment for residents who live in park homes or on commercial premises, such as flats above shops.
The council also hopes to have an Additional Fuel Fund to help those whose homes are not heated by mains gas or electricity.
This will be targeted at households that did not receive the Government’s £400 discount on their energy bills in the second half of 2022.
However, it is not yet known whether either of these funds will cover the scores of residents of Cranbrook, many who were left without hot water and heating in December 2022 due to maintenance problems.