Organisations across Cornwall are turning words into action following the Cost of Living Summit hosted by Cornwall Council last month.
Seven working groups have been set up with each responsible for effecting real change for people who are struggling to make ends meet during the current crisis.
They will be led by the likes of Cornwall Council, Citizens Advice, the local NHS, the voluntary sector and Cornwall business groups.
Actions to be taken by each group, which were agreed at a meeting of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board on September 30, include:
Our community response:
- Support the delivery of community hubs offering winter support across Cornwall. Led by Volunteer Cornwall, this is already underway.
- Review funding for the voluntary sector to focus on more long-term sustainable funding.
Maximising people’s income:
- Develop our understanding of the barriers and issues within the welfare system that specifically affect Cornwall and work with partners to alleviate those.
- Explore options to run a basic income pilot scheme across Cornwall, using evidence from other areas.
Preventing and reducing people’s debt:
- Support the use of the Low-Income Family Tracker (LIFT) to identify residents who may be eligible for additional welfare benefits and support them to claim their entitlement.
- Review debt collection practices (e.g. council tax, NHS prescriptions fees, bank charges and loans from financial institutions) to help prevent and reduce people’s debt.
Energy efficiency and fuel poverty:
- Support bids for new capital investment into Cornwall's housing stock to reduce carbon and improve energy efficiency of homes (all tenures) and build on existing practice.
- Support Cornwall Council Public Health’s role to co-ordinate Winter Wellbeing activities to ensure Cornwall’s residents and organisations are aware of current help and initiatives.
Support housing security:
- Work with Registered Providers to understand the potential to suspend evictions (as during the pandemic) for rent arrears.
- Consider a rent cap on social housing rental increases in April.
Access to food:
- Create a Cornwall Food Strategy, and Food Security approach using learning from the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact approach.
- Identify land and support communities with an ambition to establish growing schemes.
- Campaign to reduce the number of people with unclaimed benefits, help with anxiety caused by money worries, and encourage residents to ask for help before they get into debt, among other aims.
The summit, called Turning the Tide on the Cost of Living, took place at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus on September 5.
It saw the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board meet with representatives from local communities, charities and businesses to share experiences and discuss how best to help people navigate the crisis.
Participants included Cornwall Independent Poverty Forum, Citizen’s Advice Cornwall, Voluntary Sector Forum, Volunteer Cornwall, Disability Cornwall, End Hunger Cornwall, Department of Work and Pensions, Kernow Credit Union, Cornwall Council, NHS and Independent Food Aid Network/Trussell Trust.
Linda Taylor, Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Leadership Board, said:
“At the summit we listened and talked, and now we are turning those words into action with the formation of seven workstreams, each with concrete plans and goals.
“The cost of living crisis continues to take its toll on our residents and only by working together to pool resources, share learnings and plan ahead can we offer them the best and most robust support, both in the short and long term.
“The workstreams will feed into an overarching strategic group and I look forward to hearing about their progress in the coming weeks and months. I am sure each will play an important role in making a real difference to people’s lives.”
To find out more on the help and support available visit the Council’s Cost of Living webpages.