Scarborough Council establishes cost of living working group to promote benefits, support and 'help combat poverty'

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Amid predictions of further rises to the energy price cap and a cost of living crisis that shows no sign of abating, many have been wondering what support is available to them.

From universal credit to council tax reductions and the £150 energy rebate scheme, accessing funds and financial support can seem complicated.

Scarborough councillor David Jeffels is currently heading up a working group that aims to increase awareness of benefits and entitlements that are available to residents.

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“The biggest obstacle to people accessing benefits is communication and knowing where they can get the information,” said Cllr Jeffels.

Councillors hope the group will help to point residents in the direction of available help and support.Councillors hope the group will help to point residents in the direction of available help and support.
Councillors hope the group will help to point residents in the direction of available help and support.

“We plan to use places such as doctors’ surgeries and social media and we shall put out information as widely as possible because the benefits are there.”

Cllr Jeffels is the chair of Scarborough Council’s Lives and Homes Overview and Scrutiny Committee and has taken the lead in setting up the cross-party working group, which will include members from his committee as well as the other scrutiny committee tasked with the remit of places and futures.

Although at a local authority level North Yorkshire is among the least deprived in England, Scarborough continues to be the most deprived district in North Yorkshire.

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According to the Index of Multiple Deprivation, it is ranked 90th most deprived out of 326 lower-tier local authorities, where first place is the most deprived.

Cllr Jeffels, who has represented the ward of Derwent Valley and Moor for the Conservative Party since 2015, says the idea for the working group arose from a seminar at the CU Scarborough where “everyone agreed” that cost of living was the most pressing issue.

“I have been given the names of various funds that are available, as money comes from the Government and it is sent to local authorities to distribute,” he said.

“If we can get more people coming forward it is going to help them considerably as this coming winter sounds like it is going to be a pretty tough one as far as utility bills go.

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“If we can get people applying for these entitlements, then it is going to make a big difference to them and their quality of life.”

Cllr Jeffels said many of the available benefits can be accessed via Scarborough Council’s customer service centre which “will also be able to offer expert help” alongside organisations and charities including Age Concern and Citizens Advice.

Although the working group is not set to meet until October, with a preparatory meeting later this month, he says that “we need to be acting pretty quickly, rather than wait for all the bureaucracy of the system at the town hall”.

People will be getting their increased bills this side of Christmas, so we want to be getting the information out as quickly as possible.”

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The working group is set to include Cllrs Coulson, Bailey, Chatt, Mortimer, Swiers and Riley and will prepare a report for the council’s cabinet.

Cllr Jeffels is optimistic about the working group but adds: “It would be good if the Government was able to give more aid.

“Every avenue that is available to us will certainly be explored to make sure we get these benefits coming into Scarborough and help to combat poverty.”