Help with the cost of living

Cost of living support

We understand that the cost of living crisis is affecting many of us and we want you to know that you are not alone. You may want help accessing grants and debt advice, support getting all the money you're entitled to, or simply want to know more about the government's recent support fund.  

We've put together some useful information in the links below to help you:

Rebates, discounts and benefits

Help with food costs

Foodbanks in Oxfordshire
Food banks are grassroots, community organisations aimed at supporting people who cannot afford the essentials in life. Local food banks work with referral agencies to issue food vouchers to those in need of emergency food in times of crisis. 

Trussel Trust
Your local foodbank will provide advice on visiting the food bank and how to get a food voucher.  Helpline: 0808 208 2138.

NHS Healthy start scheme
If you're at least ten weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old, you might be able to get free vitamins and Healthy Start vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk.

Household Support Fund (HSF)

Households struggling to afford basic essentials (including food and energy bills) can apply for Household Support Fund (HSF). 

Cherwell District’s allocation of the Household Support Fund is being administered by Citizens Advice North Oxon and South Northants (CANOSN). To ensure the widest distribution, households that received HSF support in the previous round (April-October 2022) are not eligible for support in the current round.

Visit the CANOSN website

Help for Households Campaign

Retail deals and discounts have been signed with various businesses, including Asda, Morrisons, Amazon and Vodafone and are designed to reduce costs at the checkout, help provide entertainment and ensure access to necessary services for families. 

Find out how you can access help with bills, childcare, transport costs and more through the Help for Households campaign.

Government's Energy Support Scheme

The Government announced in December 2022 two further schemes to help certain households with the rising cost of energy.

Energy Bills Support Scheme – Alternative Funding (EBSS AF)

We are waiting for guidance on this, however, the application portal for the £400 is due to open in January on the Government's website Gov.UK: Help for Households - Get government cost of living support.

There will be a Government helpline for those without online access.

The scheme means that households who didn’t receive the original energy bills support, such as those without their own electricity meter or without a direct relationship to an electricity supplier, can receive a £400 support payment.  

This might include

  • Care home residents and others in wholly or partly self-funded care facilities
  • Park home residents, houseboats and caravans with proof of address
  • Social and private tenants who pay for energy through a landlord on a commercial supply
  • Travellers
  • Homes on a heat network/private wire
  • Off-grid homes
  • Farmhouses used for wholly domestic purposes

There are many circumstances that might have led you to miss the original Energy Bills Support Scheme. The updated package aims to get the right support to everybody who needs it. 

Those who have already benefitted in part or in full from the £400 by receiving a payment; voucher; or discount on your electricity bill of either £66 or £67 per month will not qualify.

The property must also be the household’s sole or main residence.

Energy Bills Support Scheme – Alternative Fuel Payment (EBSS AFP)

If you don’t heat your home with mains gas and use an alternative fuel which could include oil; coal; liquefied petroleum gas (LPG); biomass and bottled gas, you might also be able to get an additional £200 payment, known as the Alternative Fuel Payment (AFP).   

The Government have confirmed that most households eligible for AFP support will receive payment automatically via their electricity supplier in February, with no further action needed.

Those households who will need to apply for the AFP, for example because they do not have a relationship with an electricity supplier, will be able to do so in February, through the same GOV.UK portal as the EBSS Alternative Funding scheme.

For customers without internet there will be a dedicated national helpline.

The Government has advised that potentially eligible households should not contact the Council until we receive further instructions on how the EBSS-AF and AFP scheme payments will be administered.

Better Housing, Better Health

Oxfordshire Better Housing Better Health is our partner who can provide free, impartial help and advice on energy efficiency. Contact BHBH If your household is struggling to pay fuel bills, or you want advice or information on any of the following:

  • Saving energy and switching energy suppliers
  • Things you can do to keep your home warm, dry and also reduce the cost of heating, lighting and running household appliances
  • Grants and discounts that may be available to help with the cost of energy efficiency improvements, including insulation

Call Better Housing Better Health on 0800 107 0044 or email bhbh@nef.org.uk.  Sign up to the Better Housing Better Health Service's newsletter for the latest information other grants and offer that may be available to help improve your home and save energy.

Energy efficient grants and loans

  • Sustainable Warmth Grants 
    You may be eligible for this grant to retrofit your home and reduce your energy bills. The current schemes run until March 2023 and aim to improve poorly insulated homes for low-income residents in properties with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Rating of D or below.
  • Government's Energy Bill Support Scheme
    The government recognises that many households need support to help deal with rising energy bills. Through this scheme domestic electricity customers in Great Britain will receive a £400 grant which will appear as a credit from energy suppliers from October 2022 onwards. This will not need to be repaid.

Winter warmers and Warm spaces

Winter warmers

The Winter warmers project provides a warm meal to eat and another meal to take away. Currently funded from the Contain Outbreak Management Fund.

Warm spaces

We are working with local partners to provide a warm space offer across the district, with venues available to drop into, enjoy the warmth, and meet people. The council is also looking to add activities and potential food offerings in these spaces.  

Rent or mortgage payment support

The support available to you will depend on whether you’re in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit.

  • Housing Benefit or Housing Cost element of Universal Credit claimants
    You can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment if the benefit doesn’t cover your rent.
  • Private tenants (not in receipt of these benefits)
    Shelter offer help on how to approach the issue with your landlord, as well as offering support if you face eviction.
  • Homeowners
    If you’re a homeowner who’s unable to pay your mortgage, you should call your provider as a matter of urgency. Get in touch with Citizen's Advice who can help you to claim Support for Mortgage Interest from the government (if you’re eligible) and also talk you through any legal proceedings that may arise if you’re in mortgage arrears.

Help, advice and support

  • You can use an independent, free and anonymous benefits calculator to check what you could be entitled to. This will give you an estimate of:
    • the benefits you could get
    • how much your benefit payments could be
    • how your benefits will be affected if you start work or increase your hours
    • how your benefits will be affected if your circumstances change - for example, if you have a child or move in with your partner
  • Citizens Advice
    Provides confidential support and advice to assist people with legal, debt, consumer, housing, and other problems. Here are the details for the local offices:
    • Banbury: Cornhill House, 26 Cornhill, Banbury, OX16 5NG.  Telephone: 01295 221 448 
    • Bicester: The Garth, Launton Road, Bicester, OX26 6PS. Telephone: 0344 411 1441
  • National Debtline 
    Advice on making the most of your money and dealing with high gas and electricity bills. Call 0808 808 4000 for free debt advice or use their Digital Advice Tool to get instant, tailored debt advice.
  • The Money Advice Service offers free and impartial money advice to help improve your finances. 
    • Tools and calculators to help keep track and plan ahead are available as is telephone support 0300 500 5000
  • StepChange
    For free debt advice and support to get your finances back on track - call them on 0800 138 1111.

Mental health support 

If you need to talk to someone on any topic regarding your mental health, there are local organisations that can help:

Cost of living tips

Energy

  • Remember to keep all internal doors closed
  • Keep your freezer full to make it more efficient, even if it’s with a loaf of bread
  • Heat the person not the room, think about electric blankets, warm throws, or layers
  • Make sure the space around your radiator is clear
  • Descale your kettle to make it more efficient (you can use household vinegar)
  • Deal with draughts.  Rolled up towels make good door draught excluders. Cling film for windows
  • Turn off appliances at the mains and always turn off lights in rooms when you’re not in them
  • Use a tower extension – having TVs or entertainment systems plugged into a tower allows you to easily switch off all appliances at once.  Save energy not leaving them on standby and if you struggle to reach sockets in the walls this makes it easier (cost about £20)
  • Use a solar powered ‘garden light’ as a light in the hallway or other rooms which you can safely see by a lower light – you can charge these on a window sill which gets the sun (from £3)
  • Use a battery charge pack – when you are out on the bus, trains, in a car, at cafes, the pub or libraries then charge it up. At home you can use these to power a speaker, radio or mobile phone (cost £10 to £20)
  • Use alternatives to a traditional cooker – air fryers are quicker and slow cookers lower energy usage
  • Avoid using the microwave to thaw items – plan meals and thaw frozen items on the drainer
  • Make a flask of tea or coffee when you make a mug – saves a boil and also getting up for another cuppa! (flask £5)
  • Only boil enough water for your hot drink
  • Use microwave to cook baked potatoes and vegetables rather than gas hob or oven
  • Bleed radiators and re-pressurise boilers

Food and cost savings

  • Refilling household essential like herbs, rice and flour at your local zero waste store
  • Swapping out certain veggies in a recipe for more seasonal produce will reduce costs
  • Batch cooking, make larger portions of a meal and freeze them, making it much cheaper
  • Know the difference between use by and best before dates
  • Avoid convenience stores. These are much more expensive to shop in
  • Shop around, buying in one store often will not save you money
  • Stock up where you can and use own labels rather than big brands
  • Shop with neighbours or friends to make the most of multi buy options
  • Make your own snacks rather than using pre-packaged crisps and snack bars
  • Cook together once a week to share costs of food and cooking.  One rule: simple food it’s together that matters
  • Prepare your meals into reusable containers.  It makes you less likely to buy food on the go saving you money
  • Sell unwanted items to help buy things you really need
  • Build courage to cancel regular payments you don’t need, like streaming apps that will go up
  • Make use of known reward cards
  • Make regular rain checks of your spending and budget
  • Use top cash back accounts when buying online
  • Go for longer lasting initially more expensive items
  • If on benefits, find out about social tariffs for phone and internet.  They are not publicised well!

Recognising a scam

  • it seems too good to be true – for example, a holiday that’s much cheaper than you’d expect
  • someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly
  • you suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • ‘Hi mum’ text or What’s App message – scammers impersonating family members saying they have lost their phone, it’s damaged or they can’t access it and therefore messaging from a friends’ phone.  If engaged, will go on to ask for money to be transferred to a bank account

Useful websites