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Cost of living fears over concerns town sometimes 'can't give money away'

A new public information campaign is being launched in Middlesbrough in response to fears that people in financial difficulty won’t come forward for support.

As winter continues and cost of living pressures increase, Middlesbrough Council is concerned that people aren’t aware of all the help on offer.

In recent months the Council has struggled to provide direct payments to residents who have qualified for support.

Earlier this year Council Tax account holders were entitled to a £150 energy rebate to be paid directly into their bank account. In North Ormesby - one of the most deprived areas of the town - take-up was just 48%.

Account holders who didn’t apply for the cash payment had their entitlement credited to their council tax account, but the issue highlights the difficulty of targeting support at some areas.

The renewed awareness drive, starting today, will focus on key themes including money, food, warmth and health.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: “Our message is clear: help is out there. This winter is going to be tough and we don’t people to suffer alone.

“Our concern is that in the recent past we’ve literally been a town that can’t give money away, despite everything we know about the hardship some of our residents face.

“Our offer of support is about much more than just money, but our recent experience tells me that we need to make more of a noise on this subject and make people aware of all the help on offer.

“Middlesbrough is a hugely generous place full of people with warm hearts. Not everyone reading and hearing this message may need support right now, but we can all play a part in making sure the message is heard loud and clear.

“The Council works incredibly hard alongside endless fantastic community organisations to provide support and vital advice on the crucial topics of food, money and energy.”

The Council will today start to send material to homes in specific wards both electronically and via post.

Social media activity will highlight the offer from unclaimed benefits campaigns, foodbanks and eco shops. The town’s eco shop network helps prevent food waste and can also help people reduce how much they spend on groceries.

Schemes delivered by the council and its partners also include support to make homes safe and easier to heat, cash grants and loans and access to blankets and equipment to help keep homes warm. Several Council buildings are also doubling up as warm spaces this winter.

The Council is making automatic payments from the Household Support Fund to families with children entitled to free school meals-related benefits. Vouchers of £60 per child will be paid by December 15. Residents don’t need to contact the Council. Payments will be made automatically.

People can also apply for an e-voucher if they have children who are:

  • under the age of 5, and another child in the household is eligible for free school meals
  • attending a school outside of Middlesbrough, but living in Middlesbrough and eligible for free school meals
  • not eligible for free school meals, but your household is entitled to Council Tax Reduction.

Applications can be made online on the Household Support Fund page.

Meanwhile, the Council provides funding to the White Feather Project to support people with food in an emergency. The service is available seven days a week from 9am until 10pm. The White Feather Project can be contacted on 07552 830185.

Information and advice from the Council and its partners can be found in the cost of living section.