With the rising cost of living, we are easing the squeeze with a one-stop source of information for local residents – from help with food and utilities, to finding your nearest, 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.
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
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
Energy bills support
- If you're a low income household which claims means-tested benefits such as Universal Credit, Pension Credit and tax credits, you will automatically get £900 split into three installments across the tax year: £301 between 25 April and 17 May 2023, £300 in autumn 2023 and £299 in spring 2024. More information: Cost of Living Payments 2023 to 2024 - GOV.UK
- You could get £150 off your electricity bill for winter 2023 to 2024 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.
Reduce your energy bills
- HEAT app
From turning off lights to having shorter showers, 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 constantly updated guide provides some options and advice for those looking to cut down on energy use. It includes a table of heating methods from hot water bottles to electric blankets, their initial cost and cost per hour.
Check if there is a space near you: Community Spaces | Hertfordshire County Council
Grants up to £2,000 are available for groups who can provide warm places: Hertfordshire Community Foundation
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.
Save food, save money
You could save up to £720 a year by reducing the amount of edible food you waste - take a look at WasteAware's campaign #WorthSaving and follow the four steps to save money and tackle avoidable food waste.
Supermarket & other eatery offers
Check the latest: Supermarket deals (moneysavingexpert.com)
- Morrisons café – Letchworth
Kids eat FREE (one free meal from the kids menu) when an adult spends £4.49 or more on a meal – this is thought to be an ongoing offer.
- Iceland - Letchworth
If you're 60 or over you can get 10% off your shopping in store every Tuesday at Iceland and The Food Warehouse with no minimum spend.
- ASDA café – nearest Stevenage
Kids (up to 16 years) eat for £1 all day, every day, and FREE Ella's baby food pouches for under 18 months with any purchase - these are thought to be ongoing offers.
Love Food, Hate Waste
Recipes for people on a budget:
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.
NHS Healthy Start
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 help to buy food and milk through 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.
Free school meals
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.
Utilities & household costs
A new council tax reduction scheme came into effect from April 2023 - it will simplify the process which gives a discount on your council tax based on the income of your household and will provide 100% council tax relief to the lowest income households in North Herts.
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.
Broadband and phone
With money tight, your broadband and phone might be something you consider doing away with - but there is support to lower your broadband and telecoms contracts. Firstly, are you out of contract? Ofcom reports that millions of people are out of contract for their phone, broadband and pay-TV, so could get a better deal. Additional help is also available for people claiming Universal Credit, Pension Credit and some other benefits, but a significant amount of people eligible for these tariffs don’t take advantage of them. There are a number of comparison sites which Ofcom accredits to help you make an informed choice and get the right deal.
- 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. They have 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.
- 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.
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 £20,000 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.
£2 bus fare cap
The government has extended the £2 bus fare cap meaning a single bus journey will cost no more than £2 on most routes across Hertfordshire, until 31 December 2024. Please check specific operators - for instance bus services in Royston are not included as none of the operators joined the scheme. The scheme is designed to support families through the cost of living pressures and also applies to the HertsLynx on-demand bus service.
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.
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, Royston and Knebworth, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01462 474111.
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.
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 through Tax-free childcare. This goes up to £1,000 every three months if a child is disabled (up to £4,000 a year).
Hertfordshire Holiday Activity Programme
The HAPpy Activity Camps run by Herts Sports Partnership are 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 Hertfordshire
Age UK Hertfordshire 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 providing physical measures to prevent draughts and maximise heat dispersion and efficiency from radiators - these measures are free, funded by Hertfordshire County Council. For more information email Handyperson@ageukherts.org.uk or call 07951 105370.
General 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.
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.
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.