We seem to be facing the winter months with much uncertainty when it comes to covid and the ramifications of Brexit.
One thing seems to be inevitable, however – we will be facing a winter with rising fuel costs.
This is a major problem for our communities, especially as they are still counting the costs of the pandemic. Lots of households have seen a reduction in income – regretfully with the £20 loss in universal credit, eviction from rented properties and significant rises in rental costs to make homes unaffordable. All this coupled with uncertainty in the job market and the end of the furlough scheme.
The challenges are all too real – and for many the challenges are getting worse. As ever, it is the most vulnerable people in our communities who are hit the hardest. Low-income households will have to make the impossible decisions between eating and heating, as gas and electricity prices go literally through the roof.
We need to do everything to make sure the connections we made with our communities and neighbours during covid continue to grow. Thankfully there is help out there, and it is up to us all to help people to access it.
At Mendip, we supported this right from the beginning when covid first hit. Our staff worked together with councillors, our partners and organisations. Communities responded in ways that were perfectly suited to their unique and diverse needs. One size certainly didn’t fit all.
In our largest village, for instance, the Street Community Group brought together the Salvation Army, Street Baptist Church, the Crispin Community Centre, Millfield School, Street Parish Council and a band of committed volunteers to coordinate all their efforts. And in our rural communities, there was the same commitment and care, in this case led by community and church groups, local pubs and village shops. It was no less impressive and very much appreciated.
We all thought this work would be temporary, but it is becoming clear that the need remains and at Mendip we are well aware of that too. We continue to work with partners to support all of our residents and we need your help to the message out to your friends and neighbours.
In order to help combat the rising fuel prices, and meet our environmental pledges, we have Safer Home Grants up to £10,000 available for low-income homeowners (usually on a means-tested benefit or vulnerable) to make energy improvements, improve homes and reduce fuel bills.
Energy grants up to £100 are available to pay for the cost of getting an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC); up to £500-£1,000 available for completing energy efficiency improvements where the property has an EPC rated D or lower. These are available to homeowners, tenants and landlords. We also work with community interest company Lendology to support people who need help repairing their homes.
You can find out more on what financial assistance is available to residents for safer, healthier and warmer homes and more information on the above by visiting www.mendip.gov.uk/financialassistance.
And if you are without heating and need temporary heating while your system is being installed or replaced, you can contact Somerset Independence Plus on 0300 303 7794 to see if you are eligible to borrow free heaters.
The Centre for Sustainable Energy can give advice and support with topping up prepayment meters, water & energy bills, switching suppliers as well as more general money advice - www.cse.org.uk/advice.
Let’s look after each other this winter. We are most definitely stronger when we work together. As ever, if you have any questions or suggestions for me, then do get in touch on email [email protected] or on my Facebook page: @Ros.Wyke. I look forward to hearing from you!
Written by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of Mendip District Council
Please get in touch either on my Facebook page @Ros.Wyke or you can send me an email: [email protected].