As one in five people in Great Britain say they are ‘occasionally, hardly or never’ able to keep comfortably warm, and one in 20 cannot buy enough food (source ONS), Milton Keynes City Council is committing £5.5m to help residents facing food and energy insecurity, investing in preventative help that will also relieve some of the growing pressure on struggling health and care services over the winter.
The cost-of-living crisis disproportionately affects disabled people, who as a group are more likely to be unemployed yet may have extra costs for energy use or specialist food. Colder homes put people with health vulnerabilities at greater risk of stays in hospital or other care. For children, living in cold homes without enough to eat may mean they do less well at school, which in turn could limit their life opportunities.
Such devastating personal impacts are also putting extra pressure on services such as social care, schools, and the NHS.
Last year, MK City Council declared a ‘cost-of-living emergency’ and spent £3.3m from its own funds and from government grants to support projects that provided food, reduced energy bills, and gave other help.
This year it has extended that support to £5.5m in its 2023/24 Winter Plan, which was received by Cabinet on 7 November.
The city council’s expanded support includes:
- Help for children and families. Families of children who are entitled to free school meals will be given £15 of supermarket credit per child for each week of the two-week Christmas holiday and one-week February half term. The city council’s well attended children’s activity programme will return between 2 and 5 January, with food served at each session.
- Funding charities to help their work go further. The city council will provide a financial boost to food charities such as MK Food Bank, and to organisations who give residents financial/debt advice, such as Citizens Advice MK, so they can reach more people.
- Helping people who are falling into rent arrears Financial help and guidance for council tenants and for private renters who are struggling to make end meet.
- Funding warm spaces. MK’s Parish and Town Councils will be given money to help them run informal activities, from community cafes to social clubs.
- Reducing energy and housing costs A ‘Warmth and Wellbeing Helpline’ continues, offering advice to residents on how to get support with energy costs.