Citizens Advice Wandsworth is among the organisations that step in on residents’ behalf when they face difficulties. According to its Chief Executive Mary-Ann Foxwell, the charity has seen a 400 per cent increase in the number of people asking for foodbank vouchers since before the pandemic, and twice as many people seeking advice about energy costs this year compared to last.
She said: “Local residents are really worried they cannot afford their energy charges on top of food and housing costs. Some have contacted us as they have been left without power and access to the kitchen appliances they need. We’re pleased to be able to help more local people in need.”
We’re pleased to be able to help more local people in need.”
Citizens Advice Wandsworth helps with information on heating grants, budgeting, energy efficiency measures and benefits and sometimes contacts energy companies on clients’ behalf.
With council funding, it is increasing its capacity to provide advice and direct people with worries to the right source of help. Information about how to access this support can be found on the Citizens Advice Wandsworth website. The initiative is part of a £5million Council funding package to help residents and businesses via community organisations.
The council has also launched an online Cost-of-Living Hub with details on grants to help with fuel bills, energy efficiency advice for cheaper bills, information on benefits, what to do in a crisis and mental health support and links to community organisations and charities. The new helpline will complement the hub, making it easy for people to find the support they need.
For people who are worried about the cost of heating their homes, the council is also turning local libraries and other sites into warm spaces – heated places where people can spend time and save on energy bills.
And a Cost-of-Living Commission will hear from residents about the impact on their lives are and give them the chance to shape further action and support.
We hope we can work together to form a safety net of support for people who are struggling.”
Cllr Kemi Akinola Deputy Leader of Wandsworth Council and speaker for the voluntary sector said: “We are committed to strengthening connections with the voluntary sector to reduce the impact of the cost-of-living pressures on people in Wandsworth. We hope we can work together to form a safety net of support for people who are struggling.”
Wandsworth has a wealth of organisations with valuable expertise and advice on hand for residents:
Melanie Nock, the development officer for the voluntary sector coordination service at Wandsworth Care Alliance said: “The last two years have put huge pressures on the local voluntary and community sector which has risen to that challenge with innovations, creativity, empathy and a renewed emphasis on partnership. Our contribution is to offer friendly help with finding funding sources, making applications, governance, policies, finding and supporting volunteers and more.”
South West London Law Centres launched a new cost of living project for residents struggling to pay their essential bills due to the rising cost of living. Roni Marsh, money and cost of living team manager at the law centre, said: “Our expert advisers can check you are getting the money you are entitled to and help you find ways to cope with the cost of living. We can apply for discounts and grants on your behalf and advise on benefits claims to improve your financial situation and help reduce household bills. We recognise that problems can often be complex so we can also refer you to our in-house legal teams if you need additional advice on housing, employment or immigration matters.”
South West London Energy Advice Partnership (SWLEAP) provides energy advice across Richmond, Wandsworth and Merton to anyone in fuel poverty. Toby Costin explained: “We offer support in different ways with free home energy visits where we analyse energy usage, insulation, lighting, heating systems and energy behaviours (such as leaving on lights in empty rooms!). Where needed we can loan out energy saving equipment such as an energy monitor and can install at no cost reflective radiator foil, insulation materials and low energy lights (LEDs). We also offer friendly advice at our energy cafes on how you can reduce your power bills.”
People who need low-cost home furniture can now get in touch with the Richmond Furniture Scheme charity which is expanding into Wandsworth. Extra discount is offered to residents on income support and other eligible groups. The borough’s adult social care team is also organising furniture grants to those facing hardship.
Chief executive Simon Westgarth, says: “We are delighted to offer this new service to Wandsworth. We have been providing similar support in the Richmond community for some years and supporting Wandsworth with this service seems like a natural thing to do”.
Find out more
For more about services in Wandsworth, visit the online Cost-of-Living Hub.