With rising energy bills and other costs of living, we have put together a one-stop source of help and information for local residents – from information about this winter's £400 energy bills support scheme, to finding your nearest food provision service and the cheapest fuel.
Some of the information is specific to North Herts, and some is more general. Information was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot accept any responsibility for third party information or actions.
Government's 'Help for households'
See what cost of living support you could be eligible for through the government's nationwide scheme which includes retail discounts and offers with major UK businesses such as Asda, information on income support and help with transport costs: Help for Households - GOV.UK
Hertfordshire County Council's 'Help to manage the cost of living'
The county council has also put together a webpage of resources offering advice and practical help to manage your finances and make savings while also helping the environment: Help to manage the cost of living | Hertfordshire County Council
Easing the squeeze
Energy bills support
The government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme will deliver a £400 non-repayable discount to all households with a domestic electricity connection to help with energy bills during winter 2022 to 2023. There is no need to apply for the discount, or contact your energy supplier, as suppliers will automatically deliver this support over six months from October.
However, if you don’t receive your first instalment by the end of October, please do contact your supplier.
You will see a discount of £66 applied to your energy bill in October and November, and then £67 from December to March.
Direct debit customers will receive the discount automatically as a reduction to your monthly direct debit amount collected, or as a refund to your bank account following direct debit collection each month. Standard credit customers and payment card customers will see the discount automatically applied as a credit to your standard credit account in the first week of each month, with the credit appearing as it would if you had made a payment. Smart prepayment meter customers will see the discount credited directly to your smart prepayment meter in the first week of each month. Traditional prepayment meter customers will be provided with redeemable vouchers or Special Action Messages (SAMs) from the first week of each month, issued via SMS text, email or post. You will need to take action to redeem these at your usual top-up point.
You could get £150 off your electricity bill for winter 2022 to 2023 under the government's Warm Home Discount Scheme. The money is not paid to you, it's an automatic one-off discount on your electricity bill, or gas bill if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity and you’re eligible.
To qualify you should get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit or be on a low income (in receipt of certain means-tested benefits) and have high energy costs.
Council tax energy rebate
Payments of £150 known as the ‘council tax energy rebate’ have been paid to households in council tax bands A to D.
If your home is in council tax bands E to H, there is a limited discretionary scheme for the energy rebate for eligible households: Energy rebate discretionary payments.
If you are struggling to pay your council tax, or any council related bills, please contact us asap so we can help and discuss your options – the sooner the better.
There are a number of food banks and food provision services in North Herts.
Watch our short video on North Herts Food Provision Network, illustrating how the council has worked with organisations across the district to help local communities through the pandemic and now with the cost of living crisis.
If you are more than 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under four years old, and are in receipt of certain benefits, you could be entitled to a Healthy Start prepaid card worth £4.25 per week (£220 a year), to spend on healthy food and milk. If you are entitled to Healthy Start, you will also get free vitamins designed to help pregnant and breastfeeding women and growing children.
Every child in the first three years of primary school can receive free school meals via Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) regardless of family income. For older children, eligibility for free school meals is dependent on family income, but there may be exceptions. Information about provision during school holidays will be promoted at the time by your school and HCC.
- Iceland - Letchworth and Hitchin
If you're 60 or over you can get 10% off your shopping in store at Iceland and The Food Warehouse with no minimum spend. To redeem you need to show your driver's licence or a senior bus pass/railcard.
- Morrisons café – Letchworth
FREE jacket potato with Heinz Beanz at all stores – whether you’re young or old, no questions asked, until stocks last – just ask for Henry (Henry J. Heinz the founder of the condiment company and his family are known for philanthropy). Available 26 Oct-6 Nov.
Kids also eat FREE when an adult spends £4.99 or more on a meal – this is thought to be an ongoing offer.
- ASDA café – nearest Stevenage
Kids eat for £1 at all stores, all day, every day – offer until January 2023. FREE Ella's baby food pouches for under 18 months with any purchase.
Those aged 60 and over can also get soup, a roll and unlimited tea and coffee for just £1, all day, every day, throughout November and December.
There are lots of ways to save money and make your food go further, including:
Recipes for people on tight budgets and those using free school meal vouchers – “Pocket-friendly, easy-peasy recipes for mega-tasty, super-filling, hearty home cooked grub!”
Jack aka Bootstrap Cook is a former foodbank user and food poverty campaigner who’s carved a career out of sharing budget recipes designed with the simplest, cheapest ingredients. Check out the Cooking on a bootstrap website or their social media channels.
As it's more expensive to heat your home this winter, as well as your local library there are other 'warm spaces' throughout North Herts and Hertfordshire to help people stay warm - check the lists below to see where your nearest is:
The Healthy Hub North Herts is a one-stop shop where you can access practical help and support for a range of issues that affect your health and wellbeing. Whether you’re feeling lonely or isolated, need help with accessing food support or if you are looking for some advice on staying healthy and well, the Healthy Hub can help.
The Hub provides free fortnightly sessions in Letchworth, Hitchin and Royston, providing support through activities for adults and children such as Fun with food with Creative Chefs as below. Numbers are limited so please book your place – pre-book online, email email@example.com or call 01462 474111.
You can get up to £500 every three months (up to £2,000 a year) for each of your children to help with the costs of childcare. This goes up to £1,000 every three months if a child is disabled (up to £4,000 a year).
The Hertfordshire Holiday Activity Programme (HAPpy camps) is for children and young people who attend a Hertfordshire school and are in receipt of benefits-related free school meals. They provide healthy food and fun activities during the main school holidays.
Age UK supports older people by delivering services that help make later life a fulfilling and enjoyable experience. This includes providing local weekly 10 to 3 lunch clubs with a hot meal and opportunities to socialise. They also offer a reliable Handyperson service, carry out winter wellbeing checks and this winter can provide physical measures to prevent draughts and maximise heat dispersion and efficiency from radiators - these measures are free, funded by HCC. For more information email Handyperson@ageukherts.org.uk or call 07951 105370.
Reduce your energy bills
- HEAT app
Did you know you could save up to around £70 a year on your fuel bills just by using the Herts Energy Advice Tool (HEAT) app? This easy-to-use energy saving app is for all Hertfordshire residents and available for free from Apple and Android app stores for your phone or tablet. The app is designed to take you through your home, room by room, to answer questions to identify how you may be able to reduce your energy use, and in turn save you money.
Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert team has investigated the cheapest ways of keeping yourself warm, rather than your whole home. This guide provides some options and information for those looking to cut down on energy use for financial reasons and/or to help the planet. It includes a table of heating methods from hot water bottles to electric blankets, their initial cost and cost per hour.
If you find your home hard to heat and worry about your energy bills, this government grant scheme can fund a range of energy efficiency measures including:
- wall insulation
- loft insulation
- renewable heating systems (such as air source heat pumps)
- double/triple glazing (to replace single glazing)
- energy efficient doors
- thermostats and heating controls.
We are working in partnership with Warmworks so if you want to check if you qualify for any assistance please complete a short online survey or call 0808 196 8255.
The council has limited funding to assist extremely vulnerable residents with urgent repairs, such as a broken boiler, or disrepair that is deemed an imminent risk to health and welling. Grants of up to a maximum of £5,000 are means tested and only households with an income of below £20k can be considered. Each case will be assessed on its own merit. For more information about this grant please contact the council on 01462 474000.
These mandatory grants are available to residents who need to make changes to their accommodation to enable them to continue to live independently. The grants up to a maximum of £30,000 (subject to a means test) are available to owner/occupiers and tenants for adaptations and/or facilities. These grants are delivered on behalf of the council by Herts Home Improvement Agency – contact them on 01438 843467.
- Affinity Water
If you are having trouble paying your water bill, Affinity Water would like to let you know that they are here to help. Affinity Water has a number of schemes in place to help make things a little bit easier, such as spreading costs with payment plans or fixing the amount you pay. Find out more: Help with paying your bill - Affinity Water
- Anglian Water
Depending on your situation, customers of Anglian Water could be eligible for a discount of up to 50% on their water charges, with different tariff options available. They have a specially trained Extra Care support team that can create personalised payment plans to help you budget, give you some breathing space if you need extra time to pay, and guide you towards other help and benefits available. Find out more: Water Care | Anglian Water
Money advice and help
This is an independent local charity offering free, confidential and impartial information and advice on a range of issues including benefits, debt, budgeting, housing, relationships and employment. They provide face-to-face advice in Letchworth, Hitchin and Royston and via email, telephone and video call. The best way to contact them is to use the form on their website or call 01462 689801.
HCC’s Money Advice Unit has a number of resources to help you with your money, including a simple to use benefit and budgeting calculator, information on all major benefits and factsheets for pensioners, families with disabled children, people who are unfit for work, students and young people. Follow the link above to further information from Adult Care Services and voluntary organisations, such as a debt solution finder and information about care costs for older people.
Credit unions provide ethical financial services at reasonable cost to individuals and small businesses, and Black Squirrel services those within North Herts and some surrounding villages in Central Bedfordshire. You can save money safely and borrow money affordably.
Help with prescriptions
Did you know, if you regularly pay prescription charges, a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) could save you money? Or, if you have a low income you may qualify for help through the NHS Low Income Scheme. In addition, some groups are automatically entitled to free NHS prescriptions, and others can apply for certificates that entitle them to free NHS prescriptions.
There are lots of different websites and apps to find the cheapest fuel in your area – Money Saving Expert recommends Petrol Prices | Find the Cheapest Fuel Near You, just register and follow the steps.
Looking for work, training or voluntary work
Are you currently out of work or looking at how you might expand your experience to help aim higher? Local organisation Create Community could help you establish a healthy mindset and wellbeing in order to take steps like learning new skills, taking on new responsibility or commitment, such as volunteering, and finding and securing employment.
Step2Skills Adult learning and employment support runs a wide range of quality and approved courses for Hertfordshire adults aged 19+ aimed to help improve people’s lives. Courses are free or have a fee of £15 which can be waivered in certain circumstances.
Help for businesses
Grant schemes to support businesses following the pandemic have closed. For further information please see: Coronavirus: Help for businesses.
Criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to take advantage of the financial worries people are facing. Do not give your bank account details to anyone cold-calling you, and only follow advice from the council for claiming your council tax energy rebate. Find out more: Scams - Citizens Advice.