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Help if you're struggling with living costs

Many residents are currently struggling with rising living costs. That’s why it’s important to know what help and support is available now – that could benefit you, a relative, friend or neighbour.

Here are some sources of support that could help you or someone you know.

Check you’re not one of up to 7 million people in the UK missing out on income-related state benefits

An estimated £15bn of benefits are believed to go unclaimed each year. Use a free benefits calculator to find out what you could be entitled to.

Or contact North and West Gloucestershire Citizens Advice for one-to-one help to do this.

If you are turned down for a benefit, seek advice on whether to challenge the decision. Many benefit decisions are overturned, and organisations like Citizens Advice can offer advice about challenges.

Support from Government

You can find out more about what support is being provided by Government to help with the cost of living by visiting https://helpforhouseholds.campaign.gov.uk/

If you’re over State Pension age, check if you’re eligible for Pension Credit

Pension Credit (0800 99 1234) provides extra money for living costs and access to other help. Around a third of eligible pensioners don’t claim Pension Credit – often because they don't know they can or that they need to. Find out if you’re eligible and how much you could get using the Pension Credit calculator. People of State Pension age may be entitled to Pension Credit even though they may have modest savings, or a retirement income or own their own home. An award of Pension Credit can provide access to a range of other benefits such as help with housing costs, Council Tax, heating bills and, for those aged 75 or over, a free TV licence.

Get help with childcare costs

Over one million families are missing out on up to £2,000 a year towards childcare costs – check what help you could get. Use this calculator to find out how much you could get towards approved childcare, including: free childcare for children aged between two and four help with childcare costs if your child is under 16 (or under 17 and disabled).

Check if you can claim a discretionary housing payment

If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn't cover all your rent, check to see if you can make a claim for a discretionary housing payment.

Check if you're eligible for Council Tax Support

You may be eligible for council tax support through Forest of Dean District Council if you receive certain benefits or are on low income. You can find out more on our website here.

If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax as a result of the changes to the way that we now calculate Council Tax Support from 1 April 2021, you can apply for additional assistance from our Hardship Fund.

Apply for our Hardship Fund

Help if you’re experiencing illness or disability

Check if you or your family may be entitled to benefits for those experiencing illness or disability. 

Check your eligibility for Carer's Allowance

If you are a carer, you may be entitled to Carer’s Allowance and/or an extra amount called the ‘carer element’ within Universal Credit. This could mean £69.70 a week in Carer's Allowance if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week and you, the person you care for and the type of care you provide meets the criteria.

Apply to the Household Support Fund

The Household Support Fund is available through Gloucestershire County Council to support households in the most need with food, energy and water bills and other essential items.

Contact your energy supplier if you can't pay energy bills

Contact your energy supplier if you are struggling to pay for energy or think you may get into difficulty – if you already have energy debts, some larger suppliers offer grants to help pay this off. 

You can also visit Warm and Well for advice and support on managing your home energy.

Help to make your home more energy efficient

Warm and Well is managed by Severn Wye Energy Agency Ltd on behalf of the local authorities in Gloucestershire.

Warm and Well offers energy efficiency advice to householders and also administers grant funding on behalf of the local authorities and other funders.

Since the scheme began in 2001 it has offered energy efficiency advice and has supported the installation of over 60,000 measures. These have included loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, boilers, heating systems, solar photovoltaics and solid wall insulation.

The Warm and Well advice line is 0800 500 3076 (open Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm).

Get help if you're struggling to afford enough food

If you are struggling to buy food you can approach North and West Gloucestershire Citizens Advice who will be able to provide advice on where you can get local support.

See if you can get Healthy Start vouchers

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 (0300 330 7010) vouchers for milk, fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk.

Apply for free school meals

If you or your child receive certain benefits, you can apply for free school meals from Year 3 and above.

Seek advice about debt

If you’re in debt, seek advice early rather than let things spiral out of control. Contact North and West Gloucestershire Citizens Advice, StepChange, National Debtline or Crosslight Advice for help. There is also the local charity P3 who can provide support and advice around financial skills, dealing with debt, education and employment

Apply for a discount on water bills

Households on low income can apply for financial support through their local water provider. Please visit their website to see what support is available.

Advice if you’re renting

The government has produced advice and guidelines about what you should do if you’re having difficulty paying your rent. It also explains what your landlord should and shouldn’t be doing. 

Government council tax rebate and recent Government support announcements

Forest of Dean District Council is distributing the £150 council tax rebate announced in February to help with the cost of living along with a discretionary scheme for those not eligible for the original rebate. You can find out more here

The Government announced (May 2022) that all domestic electricity customers in Great Britain will receive a £400 reduction in their electricity costs from October 2022. There will be no requirement to pay it back. Households will not need to apply for the scheme and, in most cases, the Government expects electricity suppliers to apply the reduction automatically to bills from October 2022.

The Government announced additional support (26 May) that will provide further funding for some of these measures. This Government guidance explains how and when people in receipt of certain benefits or tax credits will receive an extra payment to help with living costs.

Looking after your mental health

Looking after our mental health and wellbeing is important.  There are a variety of organisations and websites that may be able to offer you the support, advice and help you need – whether in person, over the phone, via text, self-help or in group community settings: 

The Every Mind Matters website offers advice and practical steps that people can take to support their wellbeing and manage their mental health.

Be Well Gloucestershire is a local campaign to help when stress, anxiety, isolation and other challenges become hard to deal with. The Be Well Gloucestershire website is the start of what will be a central hub for anyone who needs help or support for themselves or a loved one. Working alongside local organisations, charities and communities, we will develop resources to enable more people to access mental health and wellbeing support for those who live in the county.

If you or someone you know needs help in a mental health crisis, you can contact the Gloucestershire Crisis Teams or call 0800 169 0398. If there is an immediate danger to life, please dial 999 or go to your nearest Accident and Emergency Department.

Gloucestershire Carers Hub provides a wide range of support specifically for carers. You can call them on  0300 111 9000 Mon, Wed & Fri 9am-5pm, Tues & Thurs 8am-8pm

Other national charities you can contact are:

Samaritans – if you’re having a hard time, they can provide you with advice and support. Call them anytime on 116 123. 

Mind National Mental Health Charity. Call their information line on 0300 123 3393.

CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a charity that supports men under 45 years old with mental health issues. You can call them on 0800 58 58 58.

Help accessing health services

Through the NHS there is a range of support to help people access health services such as support with travel costs and financial support for people on low income. Find out more on the NHS website.