Council event uncovers scale of need across Oxfordshire as residents struggle with Cost of Living crisis

Published: Friday, 20th May 2022

As Office for National Statistics (ONS) data reveals Inflation has hit its highest level (9%) in 40 years, Oxford City Council has hosted a Cost of Living training event.

Hundreds of advice professionals and volunteers attended the event to examine ways to support residents through the cost of living crisis.

The event, held at Oxford Town Hall on Tuesday 17 May, saw those in professional, advisory and direct support roles in a range of different provider settings, including community association representatives, health professionals, social workers and other local authority officers, and community volunteers come together to discuss priorities.

The event also involved a range of subject matter experts, with Oxford City Council teams alongside a range of external experts including Charis, an energy hardship fund administrator, Oxford advice agencies, providers that deliver Government-funded home insulation, Oxford food larders and other local charities.

Attendees also furthered their wider knowledge of the range of resources available and how to signpost people to the relevant services, including information on:

  • energy usage
  • debt management
  • access to hardship funds
  • access to food larders
  • access to Government-funded energy efficiency measures for tenants, homeowners and private sector landlords

Attendees identified a number of issues affecting residents, such as access to food, energy efficiency measures, digital access and debt management and the findings will inform the Council’s future plans to hold a roadshow of pop-up information sessions for the public in a number of community locations over the coming months. The Council will also be producing information materials online and in leaflet format to help direct those most in need to the many forms of assistance available.

One housing worker who attended the event, said:

“It was fantastic to see so many organisations represented at the event. Our team has provided intensive support to many people for many years and we have a wealth of experience, knowledge and connections so vital to our work.

“The demand for our services has been steadily increasing and we expect this to continue. We continue to prioritise letting people know how we can help and events such as this really help to spread the word”.

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council, said:

“The Cost of Living crisis is having a huge impact on many families and households in Oxford. I want the City Council to be doing everything we can to support people who are struggling to find the help that they need.

“Some changes can only be made at national government level, but I asked council officers to pull together all the amazing people working to support people experiencing financial difficulties in the city so that we can support residents to cope in the current economic climate. I wanted to get to the heart of the issues, so we can all agree priorities to provide targeted help to our diverse communities across Oxford.

“I’d like to thank officers for responding so quickly and to everyone who came along. Bringing everyone together has given us insight into the true scale of need out there and the most common issues facing people who really need our help.

“It’s also been important to ‘care for the carers’ and bring people together to offer peer support, particularly when we have all been largely working in isolation during the pandemic. It was great to see people making really important connections with each other as well.

“The City Council’s customer services contact centre is seeing a number of calls from residents who are distressed or feeling vulnerable. Hot topics are, unsurprisingly, the impact of the rise in the cost of living, energy, food, petrol, etc. We are making sure that our residents claim all the benefits and council tax reductions they are entitled to.

“The main feedback we get is people see the Council as a trusted source of advice or at least someone to call who can point them in the direction of the right support. We plan to build on this trust by developing a series of events to support residents during the cost of living crisis over the coming months”.

The City Council has a key objective to enable an inclusive economy. The aim of this is to distribute wealth more equitably across the city, for example by encouraging businesses to pay the Oxford Living Wage, and to provide affordable space for Oxford residents, including those from more deprived areas, to start new businesses.