Struggling families ‘spike’ ahead as Covid support ends, warns council

Struggling families ‘spike’ ahead as Covid support ends this September, warns Cambridgeshire County Council.

Struggling families ‘spike’ ahead as Covid support ends this September, warns Cambridgeshire County Council. - Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Cambridgeshire County Council fear a “spike in demand” of families needing vital support at the end of this month as the furlough scheme ends and Universal Credit payments are cut. 

Struggling households will be targeted as part of the council’s plans to ensure they get food vouchers, debt advice and gain “increased resilience” in the face of challenges post-pandemic. 

It comes as a number of support packages offered over the last 18 months will end after September, such as the furlough scheme and financial help for those self-isolating. 

Energy bills are also set to rise and the temporary £20 increase in Universal Credit payments will end – a move that Citizen’s Advice Rural Cambs said would leave one in 10 people “unable to pay their bills”.

However, county council chiefs say that there will be investment into existing support schemes to “manage the projected demand”. 

More than 37,000 food vouchers were handed out to struggling families during the summer holidays – after the council received a funding grant of £1.374m in June. 

Plans to extend the vouchers for the October half-term, along with a raft of other measures, will be discussed as part of a report at the children and young people’s committee tomorrow (September 14). 

“The scale of the projected demand is difficult to quantify at this point while many of the pandemic’s economic support schemes are still in place and while the pace of the economic recovery is still unknown,” the report states. 

“We are anticipating a particular spike in demand following the end of September, as far as we currently know, due to a number of factors."

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The council’s “hub” model of working, which has seen officials “proactively contact families and individuals” instead of waiting for them to get in touch, is also hoped to continue. 

While emergency food, fuel and cash awards are set to be extended as part of a £400,000 budget. 

“It is important that engagement takes place across the system to ensure partners and communities understand what else is available and that we are exploring how this can be operationalised across each local area including what existing organisations can offer support,” the report adds. 

“We have helped families and individuals navigate the system to access the support they need, be it debt advice, housing problems or support to self-isolate due to Covid-19.” 

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