I know how much difficulty Covid has caused people in Wycombe and across our country.
Alongside the awful health implications of Covid, cycles of lockdowns and restrictions have meant that the Government has borrowed £350 billion to help and support families and businesses through Covid. This may have been the right thing to do at the time, but it is clearly unsustainable if we are to prosper as a country.
While some of the schemes introduced to support individuals and families through Covid lockdowns have been removed, the Government has continued its clear commitment to support those on low incomes. The cost of living is the most pressing issue today for my constituents in Wycombe and it is important that we take steps to tackle it.
To support those on low incomes, the Government has increased the National Living Wage to £9.50 per hour from next April. This is an increase of 6.6%. Similarly, the Government has made to the Universal Credit Taper Rate, something I had campaigned for, which will mean that 1.3 million families on Universal Credit will receive more support with their household costs.
The Government has also recognised that local authorities are often best equipped to react to local needs. The Government provided £2.4 million to Bucks Council to help the most disadvantaged. Using this funding, Bucks Council has set up the “Helping Hand” programme to support families struggling with the cost of living. The Helping Hand scheme provides:
- Food vouchers via educational establishments for those in receipt of free school meals
- Food & utility support, essential white goods & beds, winter clothing, and coats & duvets to vulnerable households.
- Expansion of the Crisis Fund approach through Heart of Bucks to support households with energy/utility costs and broader household costs.
- Expansion of the Fuel Grant Payment Scheme operated through Citizens Advice Bureau.
- Grant support to groups providing support to vulnerable household such as food support organisations and hot meal schemes.
As we recover from the impact of Covid and lockdowns, I know that many households in Wycombe may require additional support. If you are concerned about the cost of living and would like to enquire about the Helping Hand programme, please contact Bucks Council through visiting www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/helping-hand, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 01296 531151.