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Cost of living crisis: Things getting worse for needy in West Berkshire





The cost of living crisis is getting worse not better in West Berkshire.

That's the view of voluntary organisations in the district, which have reported to the council on the situation.

West Berks Foodbank project manager Fran Chamings, pictured in 2022 when she said people were “scared because they can’t see a way out of it” as the cost of living crisis began to bite
West Berks Foodbank project manager Fran Chamings, pictured in 2022 when she said people were “scared because they can’t see a way out of it” as the cost of living crisis began to bite

They say there have been significant increases in demand across all sectors, including a need for replacement appliances and mattresses.

Increases in very specific demand, caused by the number of people in emergency accommodation and an uptick in the numbers of complex mental health issues being identified requiring significant support, are also still showing up.

The findings are highlighted as the council and voluntary partners prepare to spend the latest round of the Household Support Fund.

A report to the council says that while some of these factors - such as inflation and energy costs - have fallen, many residents face distinct financial challenges.

"It is also worth noting that food inflation is still running at four per cent,” the report noted.

“Whilst energy costs have fallen significantly from their peak they are still substantially above 2021 levels with a current price cap £1,690 as opposed to £1,042 in 2021."

The Community Resource Project and the Foodbank have previously reported that the biggest single source of referrals was West Berkshire Council.

In March, the government announced that there would be a further allocation of the Household Support Fund to local authorities. A £694,849 grant is to be distributed to West Berkshire's most needy.

The new scheme only has six months to run and there is no guarantee it will continue.

The largest chunk of the grant is proposed to allocate £3 per child, per day for four weeks of the school summer holiday period. Based on 4,200 young people eligible, this amounts to £252,000.

Last year, the council was awarded a total of £1.39m.

Following previous decisions by the council, the 2023/24 scheme was delivered in partnership with the voluntary sector and Greenham Trust.

Of that, £346,000 was made in direct payments to residents who met the scheme criteria and £120,000 support was allocated for those on housing benefit who were not eligible for other cost of living support payments.

More than £350,000 of support was delivered through the voluntary sector, including support for pensioners; support for those in temporary and emergency accommodation; essential household goods, including white goods and carpets, curtains and mattresses; and support with food and energy costs.



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