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
- Council Tax Energy Rebate - payment has been made to all eligible properties and the application process has now closed.
- Discretionary Council Tax Energy Rebate - You will not need to apply for these payments as eligible households have been identified.
- Housing Benefit
- Discretionary Housing Payments
- Council Tax Support
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.
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)
Oxfordshire Resident Support Scheme is the new scheme for distributing Household Support Fund to individuals and families. It has been launched to support residents in need of immediate help and who have no other source of financial support available to them.
The Resident Support Scheme will help with short-term basic living costs such as food and credit for energy prepayment meters. It can also help in some circumstances with white goods, furniture, and clothing. It is intended to meet one-off crisis or emergency need and is not designed to meet any type of on-going expenses.
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 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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
- Grants and loans which can help with home energy efficiency improvements:
- Landlords can apply for our CHEEP grant to help improve their rented properties, provided they already meet the legal minimum energy efficiency standard.
- Homeowners in receipt of certain benefits can apply for our Essential Repairs Grant which could be used to help quickly replace an old broken boiler or other main heating appliance.
- Our Small Repairs Service can help homeowners and tenants aged 60 years or over with small jobs such as lagging an immersion tank or draught-proofing.
- Owners of homes needing major works can apply for a Flexible Home Improvement Loan.
- Warm home discount scheme
You might be able to get £140 off your electricity bill or a £140 voucher for your prepayment meter under the scheme if you’re either getting the guarantee credit part of Pension Creditor on a low income.
- Cold weather payment
You may be able to claim this payment if you’re getting certain benefits or Support for Mortgage Interest.
- Winter fuel payment
If you were born on or before 25 September 1956 you could get between £250 and £600 to help you pay your heating bills.
- Home Upgrade Grant Phase 2 (HUG2)
If you are on a below-average income and your home is not heated by gas, you may be eligible for this grant to retrofit your home, improving energy efficiency and reducing your energy bills. The current schemes run until March 2025 and aims 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
The Winter warmers project provides a warm meal to eat and another meal to take away. Currently funded from the Contain Outbreak Management Fund.
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.
Help with your TV Licence
The Simple Payment Plan was created for those in financial difficulty. Qualifying customers can choose from either a fortnightly or monthly payment plan that spreads the cost of a TV Licence over 12 months, this means you make smaller payments more frequently, helping you to better manage your finances.
TV Licensing accepts referrals to the Simple Payment Plan from not-for-profit organisations such as charities or your local authority money advice department. It cannot accept referrals from commercial organisations.
If you would like to speak to someone about your finances, you can contact your local authority debt advice team or there are many not-for-profit organisations offering free, confidential and independent advice. Any not-for-profit organisation providing this service can refer you to us to join the Simple Payment Plan. More information on the simple payment plan and how to access it.
There are other TV licence concessions, which you might be eligible for depending on your circumstances. There are concessions available for:
- People who are aged 75 or over and receive Pension Credit.
- People who are blind (severely sight impaired).
- People who live in qualifying residential care and are disabled or over 60 and retired.
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.
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
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:
- Oxfordshire Safe Haven for you if you are over 18 and living in Oxfordshire.
- Connection Support is a local charity that provides flexible and tailored support and advice to adults and families.
- The Mind Guide – a mental health services directory in Oxfordshire.
- The Youth in Mind Guide – information on young people's mental health services in Oxfordshire.
Cost of living tips
- 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