Cost of Living Emergency

old electricity meter surrounded by a mass (or mess) of cables

Cost of living crisis

The Coronavirus pandemic brought huge disruption to how we live and work. A major achievement over the last few years has been to keep things going and to support residents and businesses in York as much as possible. However the aftermath of the pandemic is now the major economic crisis we are facing with rapidly climbing inflation and soaring energy prices. Many of the individuals and families living in poverty in York are in work and claiming in-work benefits. Whilst poverty and inequality existed in York before Covid, the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis has made this far worse. Increasing numbers of people are struggling with debt and to pay bills and food with increasing demand on food banks and other support services.

In July 2022 the council declared a Cost of Living Emergency and in Autumn 22 organised a Cost of Living Summit to ensure all support organisations are working together. This built on the close partnership working that has taken place in the city over the last four years bringing together the council with health services, voluntary and community organisations and grassroots groups to support people who are struggling.

The council paid out over £37m of Government funding and council investment in welfare support, emergency payments and hardship funds during 2020/21. This level of support has continued this year. Benefits advice workers, housing officers and community officers have worked with voluntary organisations,  through GP surgeries and in community venues to combine hardship support with advice and help to maximise household incomes, build individual confidence and skills, reduce social isolation and address the mental health issues that can often go with poverty.

We will:

  • Maintain funding to Citizens Advice York and other voluntary sector organisations to provide debt and housing advice and help with budgeting and other problems.
  • Ensure that welfare benefits advisors in the Council and in partner organisations are fully funded to meet needs. Ensuring people access all benefits they are entitled too can be the best way of maximising income.
  • Continue to support the new Holiday Activities and Food Sufficiency Officers in their roles to work with grassroots community initiatives providing food banks and pay as you feel cafes, often reducing food waste by using re-purposed food from supermarkets or linking up with York’s local food growers. Ensure advice and access to training is also available at these venues as well  as a chance to socialise, be creative and tackle loneliness.
  • Continue to support the York Poverty Truth Commission in its innovative work to ensure that the voice of lived experience is heard when taking action against poverty.
  • Continue to support the work of the city’s Financial Inclusion Group, coordinated by the council, to support joint working and sharing best practice in dealing with the cost of living, debt, digital exclusion, housing costs and rising energy prices.
  • Support initiatives to raise skills levels and numbers of higher paid jobs in York to increase household incomes.
  • Work with health and other city partners to invest in mental health services, substance misuse services and also community empowerment (see under Community Wealth Building) that gives people the confidence to help themselves.
  • Lobby the Government for a local trial of a Basic Income Scheme in York. This would replace the core parts of the benefits system and provide everyone with a basic income by right with no sanctions for working any number of hours. Additional benefits such as disability benefits would still be paid as well.

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