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Cost of living: £220,000 on Meals on Wheels price cut and extra help for vulnerable families to pay winter fuel bills

Torfaen Councils’s Cabinet have approved £222,134 to be spent on cutting the price of Meals on Wheels and giving vulnerable families extra help with their winter fuel bills

The money is from the £855,734 grant given by the Welsh Government earlier this year for the council to spend as it chooses on ‘discretionary support’ schemes to help families in need of help with their living costs. In June, the Cabinet approved £633,600 to be spent on support and this included a £150 payment to 2,625 families who received free school meals.

At this week’s Cabinet meeting, councillors agreed the remaining £222,134 should be spent on two schemes- Meals on Wheels and Winter energy support payment

Councillor Anthony Hunt, leader of Torfaen Council, said: “I think that’s the right thing to do because it targets help at those who need it most. That’s not to say that we can help everyone. I think we have to acknowledge that within the funding envelope that we have, we can only provide so much help. We would like to provide more but it is good that we can do this to help those particular groups of people with such big rises in basic costs like heating, fuel and food. I welcome the assistance Welsh Government have given us in doing that.

“I also welcome the announcement earlier in the year by the UK Government about the assistance that will be given there but I just think much more is going to be needed going into the autumn and winter. I know colleagues are very worried about another rise in the energy price cap that is going to come about in October. Bills are going up substantially and the support we can give is quickly swallowed up by those increases.”

‘Slip through the net’

Cllr David Daniels, executive member for adult services & housing, said: “Each time we see an energy price rise, more and more people fall under that vulnerable category but perhaps don’t necessarily ‘tick the box’ of the means testing kind of allocation.” He suggested any underspent on the latest grants could “bolster” the Welsh Church Fund “which has flexibility to help people who aren’t on benefits or who are self-employed” as they sometimes “slip through the net.”

Meals on Wheels- £84,000

The Cabinet agreed that £84,000 should be used to effectively give a price cut on Meals on Wheels by £2 a meal for people registered with the service on 5 July 2022.

The service delivers around 200 meals a day seven days a week. The money will mean cheaper food for those users from August to the end of February 2023.  A payment will be made to registered users to cover their use of the service up until the end of February 2023.

Winter energy support payment- £138,134

The details of how this money will be given out to vulnerable household is still being worked out.  It could be through energy vouchers or a cash payment if a system can be ‘aligned’ to the Welsh Government’s Winter Fuel Payment scheme.

The Welsh Government has extended the deadline to spend the grant from September 2022 to the end of March 2023.

David Leech, the council’s chief officer communities customer & digital, said: “We are hopeful that will target some of those who may not have received payments from earlier schemes.”

Cllr Hunt asked for an update on the £150 grant to parents of children who receive free school meals and was told that nearly 2,400 payments would be made ‘this week or the early part of next week’.

A £200,000 grant being shared among various third sector groups in Torfaen to provide financial inclusion and income maximisation support to residents will be transferred to them ‘this week or next week’.

Cllr Hunt thanked staff in the revenues and benefits team for their work in getting these grants and the Covid payments paid out.

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Cost of living: £220,000 on Meals on Wheels price cut and extra help for vulnerable families to pay winter fuel bills

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