Falkirk Council: £1 million to support people struggling with cost of living crisis

Around £1 million worth of help and support is to be given by Falkirk Council to help people who are struggling most as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 4:19 pm

As well as giving grants to households most in need of support, people will also be encouraged to make sure they are claiming all the benefits they are entitled to.

The report ‘Tackling Poverty in Falkirk’ was brought to Falkirk Council’s executive by the chief executive, Kenneth Lawrie when it met on Tuesday.

He said: “We know that Covid 19 has left a legacy of increased poverty and inequality in our communities and we also know that the cost of living crisis is greatly exacerbating these problems, so there is a clear need to act on this now.

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£1 million will be used to help those affected by the cost of living crisis

“We also know that this is not going to be dealt with quickly or easily so the proposals set out a positive, realistic and considered starting point for this work and there will need to be a continued focus over the life of this council.”

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Councillors agreed to give £250,000 additional funding to the Household Support Fund, which was set up in January and has already made an impact, they were told.

This money will top up the Scottish Government’s Covid Economic Recovery Fund, some of which has already been used to help low-income households with essentials such as food, fuel, transport and connectivity.

The council also agreed to spend £192,000 per year for the next two years to get four more members of staff who will help people get all the benefits and support they are entitled to.

Every year an estimated £38 million of benefits goes unclaimed across the Falkirk Council area, while nationally only six out of 10 eligible pensioners claim pension credit.

And they will continue to give £3.50 per day to families who normally get free school meals to help during the summer and October holidays at a cost of £344,000.

Councillors also agreed to provide access to free swimming to people on a low-income at a cost of around £180,000.

This will be done by extending the existing Go-card scheme to include anyone in receipt of an income related benefit and adding free access to swimming.

The funding for the proposals will partly come from Covid money from the Scottish Government and partly from a £1.2 million rebate on insurance for schools that has been received.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “We hope the range of measures outlined in the report can alleviate to some extent the pressures faced by many while promoting the uptake of advice and support to maximise benefits and support to those most in need.”

Councillors also agreed to look at creating a card that could be used by people on low incomes to help get simple, subtle access to other council services.

The proposals were backed unanimously by councillors although the Labour group put forward an amendment to clarify that the work is part of a longer term strategy.

Labour leader Anne Hannah said: “That strategy must recognise that the increase in the cost of living will impact on households and families for years ahead, and we aim to do all we can to support people through this challenge.”