The deputy leader of Cherwell District Council wants to see more done to highlight cost of living crisis help available and address the “awful” estimate that around 4,000 Oxfordshire pensioners are missing out on much-needed financial support.
Councillor Ian Corkin (Conservative, Fringford & Heyfords) cited work involving Age UK Oxfordshire as the council’s executive introduced new measures to tackle the cost of living crisis.
One new element approved this week is to use £250,000 from a COVID contingency fund to pay for two food vouchers worth £50 each for households “experiencing significant hardships”.
The council’s report offered no specific details around eligibility, stating that “full details of those who will be in receipt of the vouchers will be detailed to the executive”.
It adds to council tax rebates for energy costs and housing payments, but while Councillor Corkin praised that work, he highlighted the need for people to know about it, particularly the elderly.
“A joint strategic needs assessment in Oxfordshire showed there was something like 4,000 people in the county not claiming Pension Credit, and that works out to £8.2 million, just for Oxfordshire residents,” he said.
“We know Pension Credit is often the gateway through which the government assigns further support.
“These are not benefits. They are entitlements for people who have very often done great service within the communities they live in. So my question is, are we signposting the full width of support available?
“How can we make it easy, not just online, but recognising that digitally may not be the best solution for people who need that help? How can we work with partners to ensure there is hard-copy signposting? Having £8.2 million missing from 4,000 people is an awful statistic when you think about the here and now.”
Nicola Riley, Cherwell’s assistant director of wellbeing and housing, replied: “Citizens Advice, who offer our debt and money advice service, are also appearing in person at foodbanks, larders and fridges, so they can do that face-to-face contact with people who are already going.
“I don’t think that is all of the answer; I think there is more that we can do in terms of that hard-copy promotion, and it is a case of identifying our target for that, so we make sure the information that people get is relevant and easily understood.
“We have produced – and it is available on our website and in hard copy – a ‘making ends meet, who can help me’ booklet. It contains all the details of the organisations across the district who are working in support and advice services.
“We know that is available, we don’t want to give an enormous booklet to everybody, but it is about what we need to do to make sure people know that the booklet exists.”
If the cost of living crisis is affecting you, and you’d like to know more about what help is available, you’ll find some helpful information on the Cherwell Council website.