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Cost of Living
As energy prices soar Citizens Advice found more than 14 million people won’t be able to afford their energy bills later this year. We’re urging the government to increase benefits in line with inflation to help those already struggling.
Nina is a single mum to two young children. She is employed but is currently off sick with multiple health conditions, and is awaiting surgery. She lives in a two-bed housing association property in Sittingbourne and pays a monthly top-up that isn’t covered by Universal Credit.
Nina didn’t get any Statutory Sick Pay in her last wages, which has impacted her finances – she hadn’t made any budgetary plans as she wasn’t aware of the period it would be payable for. As a result she’s now struggling to buy food, and electricity on her pre-payment meter. She’s in arrears with her energy provider for gas and there’s an ongoing dispute for a debt of around £900.
Our adviser carried out a Debt Assessment and sent Nina relevant links to information on debt, as she agreed she was confident to speak with her creditors. An appointment was made with our Benefits Caseworker for support with applying for PIP and ESA, and to discuss any grants that may be available to her. Our adviser made a referral to the food bank on Nina’s behalf and requested a fuel voucher.
What we did
- We contacted our local MPs, Gordon Henderson and Helen Whately, with information about the issues their constituents are facing. We met with Gordon Henderson, who agreed to write to the Chancellor with our concerns, and we’ve met Helen Whately individually and at her recent multi-agency Cost of Living round-table meetings.
- We raised awareness of the Cost of Living crisis through press releases and local radio broadcasts.
- We regularly share information on social media to help people, with hints and tips on saving energy and more.
- We’re working with our local ‘Research and Campaigns Cluster Group’ to combine ongoing campaign work at local offices in West and North Kent.
#keepthelifeline – Universal Credit uplift ended October 2021
The UK Government brought the £20 uplift in Universal Credit to an end in October.
This cut will mean that claimants could lose up to £1040 per year from their Universal Credit payments. Nationally, this will pull a further 2.3 million people into debt and will damage the finances of the sick and vulnerable. Locally, this cut will have a strong impact on all groups within our local community.
In Swale, 42% of Universal Credit claimants have children, meaning that this cut will take vital support away from the children of Swale just when they need every ounce of support to help them catch-up this year from school closures caused by the pandemic. Additionally, 35% of Universal Credit claimants in Swale are already in work. Often, we are told that the best solution to these problems is to encourage claimants into work. However, this cannot be the case as a large proportion of claimants are already in work and could still lose over £1000 a year.
Tina lives in Sheerness and is in receipt of Universal Credit. She called us because she’s received a notification that the £20 uplift will end in September. She’s concerned because she doesn’t believe she’ll have enough money to get by once that money is gone. Tina is receiving ongoing debt support and is in the process of applying for a Debt Relief Order. She doesn’t think she’ll be able to make ends meet if there’s a further fall in income. If Tina doesn’t receive the uplift she will be forced to rely on handouts and support from organisations such as the foodbank.
What we did
- We put together a local taskforce team.
- We wrote to our local MPs, Helen Whately and Gordon Henderson, to ask them to consider making representations to the Prime Minister to highlight the importance of the increase for families in our area, as well as communities across the country.
- We contacted local councillors, partners and community organisations to invite them to sign our open letter to the Prime Minister in October: