An emergency £2m cost of living fund is being set up to help cash-strapped residents in Camden, states a report due to be approved by senior councillors this month.
“Faced with the escalating crisis in the cost of living, there is a risk that this pushes residents into deeper poverty and brings those just about managing into financial crisis,” says the report for the cabinet member for finance and cost of living, Richard Olszewski.
The fund is part of the Labour-run council’s aim of working with public services, residents and voluntary organisations “to ensure that no child, no resident and no family in Camden go hungry or cold” and to help people avoid debt.
An estimated 37 percent of Camden’s children are living in poverty according to research in 2020 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation — one of the UK’s highest rates.
In April just over 43 percent, or 10,084 of the 24,770 low income households had council tax or rent arrears.
This was an increase of 500 families since January who owed £3m between them, with over half of them at risk or in financial difficulties.
“We are seeing a significant increase in problem debt for our most vulnerable residents,” states the report.
The fund will include crisis payments for people hit hard by the rising costs of food, energy and other essential costs and resettlement grants if they need equipment when they move into a new home.
It will replace the local welfare assistance scheme.
People facing hardship can get up to £500 in a one-off payment — with no more than two per household a year.
Payments will include money paid into bank accounts or the Post Office, supermarket, clothing or energy vouchers, one-off help with debt so people can use their income for essential items or small grants to replace or repair poor energy efficient or broken essential appliances or cooking utensils, or help to improve home insulation.
The council plans to set aside £250,000 for resettlement grants of up to £1,000 each, split between council and private tenants in need of essential items such as a mattress or fridge when they move into an unfurnished new home.
Last year the council spent £600,000 or 3,800 hardship payments from its household support fund and local welfare assistance scheme for residents.
Over half went to struggling families with children and the council joined forces with Camden Advice Network to deliver the grants.
The fund has to be approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday 20 July.