To consider a report by the Director of Public Health (Cumbria County Council) (copy enclosed).
Members considered a report by the Director of Public Health which provided a summary of Cumbria County Council’s actions taken to support Cumbria’s most vulnerable residents during the current cost of living crisis.
The Board was informed the cost of living crisis posed a significant threat to public health and in response to this the UK Government had put in place a number of support measures, including the Household Support Fund and household fuel support payments.
Officers explained that monitoring the impacts locally had led Cumbria County Council to want to do more, leading to a succession of decisions at both Cabinet and Full Council meetings culminating in a total spend of £5m as detailed below:
• £1.5m of funding direct to all schools, including free schools and academies, to ensure that no Cumbrian child goes hungry. This included £50k of match funding support to enable schools to access the Government’s National Breakfast Club Programme.
• £0.5m to double the amount of the County Council’s school uniform grant to £50 for Primary age children and £100 for Secondary age children.
• £1m of support for free school meal recipients during the school holidays - this covered all the holidays, including half terms, from summer 2022 and will include provision for this coming Easter holiday in 2023.
• £0.5m top up into the County Council’s Ways to Welfare fund – this is a long running fund that supports those in severe financial hardship, which has seen unprecedented demand during this cost of living crisis.
• £1.5m to allow other organisations to continue to provide support and advice in the face of unprecedented demand on their services, including Cumbria’s Citizens Advice Bureau Consortium, Cumbria Carers’ Association, and Cumbria Community Foundation.
On top of this £5m, further money was allocated locally via the County Council’s Local Committees providing much needed support to a whole host of vital community groups.
In conclusion it was hoped that the County Council’s activities in 2022-23 to address the cost of living crisis would act as a positive example moving forward, and with the ring?fenced £500k and contract in place to cover holiday free school meal vouchers over the Easter holidays 2023, the new unitary authorities would be able to begin 2023-24 with the impetus and resource to continue tackling the cost of living crisis and protect Cumbria’s most vulnerable residents.
A discussion took place regarding possible new ways in the future, such as access to allotments or cookery courses being available to try to reduce the impact on families. Officers welcomed the short-term suggestions whilst highlighting longer-term solutions could include cold loans and home installation schemes which could have a long?term impact for the community.
The Chair drew attention to a recent update to the County Council’s Carlisle Local Committee from the Chief Executive of Carlisle and Eden Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) which detailed the impact of the cost of living crisis. Members were advised of the support provided for a number of years from the Local Committee for the Money Advice Contract, delivered through the CAB, and suggested that the two new authorities should be urged to continue this throughout the county following Local Government Re?organisation.
RESOLVED, that the following be noted:-
(1) the actions taken by the County Council in 2022/23 to provide additional support to residents of Cumbria during the current cost of living crisis;
(2) the role of the County Council in co-ordinating a wide range of interventions across a large geographical area and the support the Council has put in place to ensure that the Cumberland and the Westmorland & Furness Councils have resources in place to tackle the cost of living crisis from vesting day;
(3) there is further work required to balance ongoing emergency support with developing and implementing medium and long-term strategic plans to reduce poverty and inequalities in both Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness;
(4) this Health and Wellbeing Board urge the Cumberland and Westmorland and Furness Councils to continue funding the money advice service provided by Cumbria’s Citizens Advice Bureaux.