Camden to set up £2m cost-of-living fund for residents amid ‘escalating crisis’

Camden’s cabinet member for finance Cllr Richard Olszewski. Photograph: Camden Council

An emergency £2m cost-of-living fund is being set up to help cash-strapped residents in Camden.

The fund is part of the Labour-run council’s aim of working with public services, residents and voluntary organisations “to ensure that no child, no resident and no family in Camden go hungry or cold”, and to help people avoid debt.

Town Hall finance chief Cllr Richard Olszewski said: “Faced with the escalating crisis in the cost of living, there is a risk that this pushes residents into deeper poverty and brings those just about managing into financial crisis.”

An estimated 37 per cent of Camden’s children are living in poverty according to research in 2020 by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – one of the UK’s highest rates.

In April, 10,084 of the borough’s 24,770 low-income households had council tax or rent arrears. This was an increase of 500 families since January, who owed £3m between them, with over half at risk of or in financial difficulty.

Cllr Olszewski said: “We are seeing a significant increase in problem debt for our most vulnerable residents.”

The emergency fund will include crisis payments for people hit hard by the rising costs of food, energy and other essentials, as well as resettlement grants if people need equipment when moving into a new home. It will replace the local welfare assistance scheme.

People facing hardship can get up to £500 in a one-off payment – with no more than two per household a year.

Payments will include: money paid directly into bank accounts or the Post Office; supermarket, clothing or energy vouchers; one-off help with debt so people can use their income for essential items; and small grants to replace or repair inefficient or broken appliances or cooking utensils, or to improve home insulation.

The council plans to set aside £250,000 for resettlement grants of up to £1,000 each, split between council and private tenants in need of essential items such as a mattress or fridge when they move into an unfurnished home.

Last year the council spent £600,000 on 3,800 hardship payments from its household support fund and local welfare assistance scheme for residents.

Over half went to struggling families with children, and the council joined forces with Camden Advice Network to deliver the grants.

The fund has to be formally rubber-stamped by the cabinet next Wednesday.

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