A major campaign to support residents across the city through the cost of living crisis and winter months has launched, with the support of public services, community and voluntary sector groups.
The ‘help is at hand’ campaign has brought services together to offer targeted support that will focus on:
The campaign has been co-ordinated by Stoke-on-Trent City Council in partnership with a range of community and voluntary organisations across the city.
Council leader Jane Ashworth said: “We know times are tough for many people across the city. We held a cost of living summit over the summer and heard from leading figures across communities about what needed to be done. Through the ‘help is at hand’ campaign we have harnessed specialist knowledge and expertise, promoting a partnership approach that ensures people and businesses know what support they can access and how to do so.”
In the first phase of the campaign the city council has committed to ensuring every resident has access to a financial MoT.
Through the council’s administration of UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) funding, Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent has been awarded £175,000 to deliver a pilot scheme to support residents, in addition to funding earlier this year. The large-scale benefit and tax credit take up campaign will target those who may not be accessing benefits and tax credits they are entitled to. A team of trained advisors will work across Stoke-on-Trent, initially targeting wards with the highest number of claimants and potential claimants.
From Monday, 25 September the Citizens Advice team will be at Meir Matters community lounge in Weston Road, Meir, 10am to 12pm, and every Monday afterwards to offer support and advice.
Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent chief executive officer Simon Harris said: “We are delighted to be working with the city council and other partners to bring as much of the £30m to £100m a year of benefits that local people are entitled to but not claiming into the city. We will do this by helping people to claim the benefits they are legally entitled to but are not receiving. This will be a welcome boost both for hard pressed families and the local shops and businesses they use.
“We will also check for eligibility for other support and help, especially the various cost of living payments, and will refer local people in to other sources of help and support where we come across people needing it.
“Our first stop is Meir and we will be moving on round the city from there over the next eighteen months.”
Residents can also access a free benefits calculator in order to make sure they are receiving all of the support they should be getting, via the services available on the council’s website at www.stoke.gov.uk/helpisathand.
Throughout the campaign community spaces, businesses and council-run libraries across the city will host welcoming spaces – after more than 80 places first opened their doors to do this last winter. A large number of those locations have continued to operate welcoming spaces throughout the year, and they are places where people can meet up, socialise, access support on issues such as money, welfare and mental wellbeing, access computers, free wi-fi and charging points, and heated spaces.
Councillor Desiree Elliott, cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing said: “Accessing support when you need it should not be stigmatised. Many households are feeling anxious about energy bills as we approach winter. I encourage people to use the services and facilities that are available throughout the city as part of this campaign, and to visit welcoming spaces if they need to, there are many across all areas of the city.”