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Cost of living support hub

How we can support you through the rising cost of living

The cost-of-living crisis is affecting us all. We have found that around a quarter of households in Westminster – 31,000 – face a serious reduction in living standards due to rising costs, such as fuel, energy bills and food.

In response to this crisis, we launched our cost of living strategy in July 2022, an 8-point package built around three pillars:

  • Targeting an initial £5.5m package of support to help families in Westminster that are struggling with the rising cost of living
  • Working with our partners to ensure that we coordinate and maximise our impact
  • Making sure our residents have the information they need to access all the support that is on offer to them

Read our full cost of living strategy.

Document
Cost of Living Strategy - 2022 PDF, 4.78 MB, 8 pages

For more information about the different types of support available, take a look at our hub below.

Our hub can help you get the support you need, from showing you how to access government financial aid to finding local advice services. Whatever hardships you’re facing, we’re here to help…

Coping with debt

Debt can be a major cause of concern, but if you’re finding it a struggle to make ends meet, there are options open to you. Whether coping with a sudden and unexpected expense or just figuring out how to stretch your income far enough to cover the bills, this interactive ‘money worries’ web form can provide advice tailored to your specific situation. The form is also available in Arabic and Bengali.

Getting yourself out of debt is all about making the right choices to deal with your changing circumstances. Citizens Advice Westminster can help you understand the best options available to you with free and impartial advice on a wide range of subjects. This includes helping you find out what benefits or grants you are entitled to claim and a very thorough guide to lifting yourself out of debt.

Its free helpline is open weekdays from 10am to 4pm on 0808 278 7834. Find more information on the Citizens Advice website.

Another free and impartial advice service that can help you deal with debt issues is StepChange – the UK's leading debt charity. StepChange will help you devise debt management plans and offers 1-to-1 advisors who can advise on your specific circumstances. It also has a dedicated rising cost of living section.

StepChange’s helpline is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, or Saturday from 8am to 4pm on 0800 138 1111.

Help finding a career

The right job can make all the difference when it comes to making ends meet. To help you find local employment options, Westminster Employment Service (WES) is a recruitment service that help residents like you connect with local businesses to find work opportunities on your doorstep. Find out more on the Westminster Employment Service website.

The Government also has a dedicated webpage where you can search for job vacancies in your area.

If you’re looking for work options beyond your local area, the government’s National Careers Service (NCS) provides free and impartial information and guidance to help you discover career options open to you, and helps you choose from over 800 career profiles to discover what different types of jobs involve. NCS can also point you towards training courses that provide necessary qualifications and has a handy skills assessment tool to help you see what talents you already possess that employers might be looking for. Find more information on the National Careers Advice service website.

Support with rising energy costs

The Energy Price Cap rise is extremely worrying for many people, but it’s important to know that there are options you can explore to offset the costs of rising gas, electricity and water bills.

The last thing energy companies want is for their customers to be suffering and all suppliers will have staff available to talk to in order work out affordable payment plans. Government rules state that suppliers must work with you and you can talk to them to get a review of your current payments and to arrange for ‘payment breaks’ to give you more time.

Thames Water can also help if you’re struggling with water bills. Low-income households (those earning less than £20,111 in London) can get discounts of up to 50% through its WaterHelp programme.

There are also hardship funds that can be accessed that can help offset bills and the Priority Service registration is a free support service that suppliers run to help if you are in a vulnerable situation.

Switching your energy provider could be a good way of saving money on your energy bills. Westminster residents can take part in the London-wide Big London Energy Switch. This involves you joining a large group of customers and inviting energy providers to bid for your collective contracts. This guarantees you’ll get the cheapest deal possible, although there’s no obligation to switch provider if you so choose.

Londoners can also exclusively access a fair-priced green energy company called London Power, a joint initiative between the Mayor of London and Octopus Energy, with electricity generated from 100 per cent renewable sources.

Always remember to keep an eye on your energy bills and to regularly check with price comparison sites to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

It’s important to know that even if your energy supplier stops trading, the national energy regulator (Ofgem), has made sure that your gas and electricity supply will continue. You will never be left without power and a new supplier will be automatically appointed for you. If you happened to be in credit on your account, this money will either be transferred as well or returned to you.

Ofgem has plenty of advice on how you will be protected in these circumstances and it’s important to make sure you stay aware of any changes in case it results in higher bills. Another great source of impartial advice is Money Saving Expert, which keeps regularly updated information on all the ways you can save on your bills, find cheaper tariffs and make your home more energy efficient.

The government has set up several nationwide support schemes that can help certain eligible people with their energy bills. The Winter Fuel Payment is a £100 to £300 payment for older people born on or before 5 October 1954. Residents that are receiving certain types of benefit payments or credits could be eligible for Cold Weather Payments – a £25 payment for every 7 days of very cold weather between November and March. You can see if you’re eligible by visiting this website.

If you’re classified as being on ‘low income’ or are in what’s known as the ‘core group’ of those receiving Pension Credit, you could also receive the Warm Home Discount – a £140 discount on your energy bills. This scheme has currently been extended until March 2026.

At a local level, Westminster can give you several support options for rising energy bills. Citizens Advice Westminster has some handy information on ways you can manage your energy bills (contact 0808 278 7834 or use this referral form for more), while the Green Doctors are a London-based charity that offers free and impartial energy advice to low-income households, the over-65s or those with long-term health conditions or disabilities (check the website for the full list of who is eligible) to help residents stay warm, save money and live greener. This can be through telephone consultations or even home visits to identify measures specific to your home.

Smart Meters

One way to make sure you’re only paying for the energy you actually use is to have a smart meter installed in your home. Smart meters eliminate the need for providers to ‘guess’ at the amount of gas or electricity you use (usually based on general trends rather than individual usage), and also help when you’re unable to submit your own manual readings, especially useful for those with mobility issues or hard-to-reach meters.

 

Upgrading Your Boiler

The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is a government programme to support the decarbonisation of homes. It can provide you with a grant of £5,000 to £6,000 to help you replace a fossil fuel heating system with a low-carbon heating system. These can be more energy efficient and help lower your bills.

 

Heating Your Home

There are practical tips for lowering energy usage (and therefore costs) in your home from the Energy Saving Trust. These include improving your loft and wall insulation, draught proofing your home and even installing your own energy generating devices such as solar panels. Even little fixes around the home can mount up to significant savings in your energy bills.

Help with financial matters

It is important that you are getting the full range of financial support available to you at both a government and a local level. To help you make sure you’re not missing out, there are several free, fair and independent ‘benefits calculators’ online that will assess your specific circumstances and tell you exactly what support payments you are entitled to receive.

You may also have heard about the government’s Cost of Living Payments that are currently being distributed across the country. These are designed to help you if you receive certain benefits or tax credits and will be paid automatically to those that are eligible. Most of the first payments of £326 will be made by the end of July, with the second payment of £324 taking place in autumn 2022.

If your current housing benefit payments are less than the full amount of your rent, then you may also qualify for a Discretionary Housing Payment, an extra payment towards your rental costs. This is means tested and we would discuss eligibility with you once you apply online.

There are also several programmes operating in Westminster that can help you with specific costs such as buying food or paying for school uniforms. Local Support Payments are for low-income recipients that have suffered a crisis or emergency (such as flooding) and come in the form of quality second-hand furniture and white goods, or store vouchers.

Supermarket grocery vouchers can be obtained as part of the Local Hardship Fund, a joint effort between the council and Citizens Advice Westminster. School uniforms are another item that incurs a frequent cost for struggling families, and Westminster now has a School Uniform Support Scheme that provides eligible children in Reception and Year Six with payments towards new clothing items for their schools.

We are also supporting your children and young people through the school holidays with our Summer Holiday Activities and Food Programme (HAF) – a series of exciting and inclusive events taking place in Westminster that are free for those receiving Free School Meals.

 

A reliable internet connection has in many ways become as vital a household utility as other utilities, but you may be finding the costs of staying online have risen as sharply as gas or electricity. Most of the big-name broadband providers can offer social tariffs for Westminster residents and this handy comparison chart shows what’s on offer and whether you might be eligible.

Food support services

Westminster provides several food support services. We’ve listed their details below and split them based on the days of the week they’re available.

Westminster Chapel

The SPACE:

  • Operate a community market on Monday - ticketing from 10am, market open from 10.30am until stocks last (around 2.30pm), some deliveries are possible, depending on availability
  • Serve hot food on Saturday, ticketing from midday, serving from 12.30pm to 2pm
  • Baby bank operating on Tuesdays
  • Address: 214 Freston Road, W10 6TT
  • Phone: 0800 047 8161
  • Email: [email protected]

Notting Hill Methodist Church (Kensington and Chelsea Foodbank)

  • You will need a voucher from a support agency such as Citizens Advice. Once you receive this, you can exchange it for three days of emergency food.
  • Hours: Tuesdays, 11am to 1pm and Fridays, 1pm to 3pm
  • Address: 240 Lancaster Road, Notting Hill, W11 4AH
  • Phone: 020 3728 9003
  • Email: [email protected]

St Michael's, North Kensington

  • WandUK distributing food from this location. People are asked to register in advance, either online or in person
  • Hours: Tuesdays, 11am to 4pm
  • Address: 35 St Lawrence Terrace, W10 5SR
  • Phone: 020 8962 4132 or 078 1348 5607
  • Email: [email protected]

North Paddington Food Bank

  • North Paddington Food Bank are currently offering supermarket food vouchers
  • Current office opening times are Wednesdays 11am to 4pm and Fridays, 11am to 4pm.
  • Phone lines will be open during these hours, call 07932 623443
  • For urgent enquires please contact [email protected]

St Matthew's Food Bank

  • Open to all. No voucher or booking needed. Each person welcome to take up to 10 items, a maximum of 2 from each category. Coffee and tea also served.
  • Hours: Wednesdays, 4pm to 6pm
  • Address: 29 St Petersburgh Place, W2 4LA
  • Phone: 020 7229 2192

Granville Community Centre

  • Granvillle Community Kitchen Food Aid is now open for collections
  • Hours: Wednesdays 3pm to 4:30pm and Fridays 4pm to 5:30pm
  • Address: The Granville, 140 Carlton Vale, London NW6 5HE
  • Phone or text: 07952 616352
  • Email: [email protected]

North Kensington Community Kitchen

  • Registration on arrival, no referral necessary, hot meals and possible delivery, 11:30am to 1pm
  • Address: Notting Hill Community Church, 92 Kensington Park Road, W11 2ES
  • Email: [email protected]

The Abbey Centre Pantry

  • For a weekly subscription of £4.50, members of The Abbey Centre Pantry will be able to have access to food, including fresh fruit and vegetables and store cupboard favourites that will often value £15-20 or more
  • Hours: Wednesday and Friday, 9am to 1pm
  • Address: The Abbey Centre, 34 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3B
  • Phone: 02072220303
  • Email: [email protected]

Dalgarno Trust

  • Foodbank operating every Thursday. Registration is required and can be done online or in person, between 10am and 1pm. Food bags then collected from entrance at an assigned time between 2:30pm and 6:30pm. Open to local residents only.
  • Address: 1 Webb Close, Dalgarno Way, W10 5QB
  • Phone: 020 8969 6300
  • Email: [email protected]

Westbourne Park Food Pantry

  • For a small weekly subscription of £5, members of this pantry will be able to have access to food, including fresh fruit and vegetables and store cupboard favourites that will often value £15 to £20. Membership is open to the community and local families are strongly encouraged to join.
  • Hours: Thursdays, 10am to 1pm and 3:30pm to 5:30pm and Fridays, 10am to 1pm
  • Address: Westbourne Park Pantry, Westbourne Park Baptist Church, Corner of Porchester Road and Westbourne Park Villas, London, W2 5DX
  • Phone: 020 7727 6019
  • Email: [email protected]

Bay 20

  • Providing hot takeaway meals on Thursdays from 2pm to 4pm. Tea and coffee available Monday to Friday from 11am to 4pm, sometimes with pastries. Partnership with NK Hearts and Minds and Unity Grove.
  • Address: 71 St Marks Road, W10 6JG
  • Phone: 020 3579 0384
  • Email: [email protected]

North Paddington Food Bank

  • North Paddington Food Bank are currently offering supermarket food vouchers
  • Current office opening times are Wednesdays 11am to 4pm and Fridays, 11am to 4pm.
  • Phone lines will be open during these hours, call 07932 623443
  • For urgent enquires please contact [email protected]

Granville Community Kitchen

  • Granvillle Community Kitchen Food Aid is now open for collections.
  • Hours: Wednesdays, 3pm to 4:30pm and Fridays, 4pm to 5:30pm.
  • Address: The Granville, 140 Carlton Vale, London NW6 5HE
  • Phone or text: 07952 616352
  • Email: [email protected]tykitchen.org.uk

Notting Hill Methodist Church (Kensington and Chelsea Foodbank)

  • You will need a voucher from a support agency such as Citizens Advice. Once you receive this, you can exchange it for three days of emergency food.
  • Hours: Tuesdays, 11am to 1pm and Fridays, 1pm to 3pm
  • Address: 240 Lancaster Road, Notting Hill, W11 4AH
  • Phone: 020 3728 9003
  • Email: [email protected]

The Abbey Centre Pantry

  • For a weekly subscription of £4.50, members of The Abbey Centre Pantry will be able to have access to food, including fresh fruit and vegetables and store cupboard favourites that will often value £15-20 or more
  • Hours: Wednesday and Friday, 9am to 1pm
  • Address: The Abbey Centre, 34 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3B
  • Phone: 02072220303
  • Email: [email protected]

Westbourne Park Food Pantry

  • For a small weekly subscription of £5, members of this pantry will be able to have access to food, including fresh fruit and vegetables and store cupboard favourites that will often value £15 to £20. Membership is open to the community and local families are strongly encouraged to join.
  • Hours: Thursdays, 10am to 1pm and 3:30pm to 5:30pm and Fridays, 10am to 1pm
  • Address: Westbourne Park Pantry, Westbourne Park Baptist Church, Corner of Porchester Road and Westbourne Park Villas, London, W2 5DX
  • Phone: 020 7727 6019
  • Email: [email protected]

Venture Centre

  • No referral needed, people are encouraged to bring a bag or trolley to carry items.
  • Hours: Saturdays, registration from midday to 2pm, collection from 3pm to 4pm (assigned timeslot)
  • Address: Venture Centre, Faraday House, 103a Wornington Rd, W10 5YB
  • Phone: 020 8960 3234
  • Email: [email protected]

Mental health and wellbeing advice

While practical advice can help you get a handle on ever increasing bills or food prices, worrying about making ends meet can also take a severe toll on your physical and mental health. It’s just as important that you take care of your own wellbeing as well as attending to the more practical matters.

The NHS has several support services that can support you, from Every Mind Matters that provides practical tips for enjoying better mental health every day, to a range of digital wellbeing tools that can help with poor sleep patterns, low moods and other symptoms of stressful thinking.

While self-care is important, it can also be beneficial to have someone to talk to about any feelings of anxiety or depression you may be experiencing. Westminster Talking Therapies is a service that provides professional therapists to talk to for those over 18 years of age who are feeling anxious, worried or depressed in Westminster.

If you’re starting to feel as though daily life is getting too much to cope with, services such as The Samaritans or The Listening Place can provide comforting, pressure-free and non-judgemental environments to listen to your concerns and offer advice. The Samaritans (0330 094 5717 or freephone 116 123) provides 24/7 support while The Listening Place (020 3906 7676) operates from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Sunday. It’s never wrong to talk about how you’re feeling and a friendly ear can often make all the difference.

If you know someone experiencing a life-threatening medical or mental health situation, call 999 right away.