We understand that many residents may be struggling to cope with the rising cost of living, particularly with food and energy costs. This page provides information about various forms of help that may be available. Cost of Living Hub Visit UK Government's Cost of Living Hub to find out what support is available to help with the cost of living. This includes income and disability benefits, bills and allowances, childcare, housing and travel. Free school meals and school holiday vouchers Your child may qualify for free school meals if you receive certain benefits. During the upcoming school holidays, the Council will be providing families receiving income-related free school meals with a £15 voucher for each child. The £15 voucher will be provided for each week of the school holiday. Help with energy bills The Citizens Advice Bureau provides lots of advice about the help that may be available with energy costs. You can find advice about how to cut down on your energy and water use to save money here and on the Energy saving trust website. The Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Fund (EBSS) The Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding is aimed at providing support to households not eligible for the automatic Energy Bills Support Scheme (£400 payment paid by energy suppliers). This is a one-off £400 non-repayable discount to eligible households who have not received the main EBSS payment automatically to help with their energy bills between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023 but are still facing increased energy costs. If you have not received automatic assistance, please apply for the EBSS Alternative Funding via GOV.UK. The Alternative Fuel Payment Alternative Fund The Alternative Fuel Payment Alternative Fund provides a payment of £200 for households that use alternative fuels such as heating oil, biomass and liquefied petroleum gas as the main source of heating. The majority of eligible households will receive the Alternative Fuel Payment automatically through their electricity supplier but there will be a small number of households who do not have a direct relationship with an electricity supplier and will be required to apply for assistance via the latest Alternative Fuel Payment Alternative Fund scheme. If you use alternative fuels for heating and have not received automatic assistance, please visit apply for alternative fuel bill support via GOV.UK. Help paying your rent If you are of working age and on a low income you may be able to receive help with the cost of rent through Universal Credit. If you already receive Universal Credit, help with rent should already be included in your Universal Credit payment. People who are pension-age and on a low income may be entitled to Housing Benefit. If you are already receiving Universal Credit or Housing Benefits and this does cover the full cost of your rent, you can apply to the Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment. Help with food If you are on a low income and have an unexpected crisis or an emergency that means you cannot afford food, the Council may be able to help by referring you to Bedford Foodbank. Please contact 01234 718033 for more information. Difficulty paying Council Tax or other Council bills or invoices Please contact us if you cannot pay any money owed to the Council - we may be able to help. Residents with the lowest income do not pay any Council Tax due to our Council Tax Reduction Scheme. Unlike many Councils, Bedford Borough still offers a discount of up to 100% to households with the lowest income. This is worth over £400 of extra help a year to a household in a typical band B or band C property. If your circumstances have changed and you think you may now qualify for Council Tax Support, please tell us by going to our Council Tax Support page to claim online. If you are having immediate difficulty paying your Council Tax bill, please get in touch with our trained advisors who will be able to help. Telephone us on 01234 718097. Universal Credit and other welfare benefits If you are on a low income you may be entitled to Universal Credit, this includes people who are working or self-employed. You can apply online for Universal Credit. See more information from the Government about other types of welfare benefits. Free advice about money management, dealing with debts, claiming benefits and more Bedford Citizens Advice can offer free and confidential help with managing your money, dealing with debts and a wide range of other advice. Visit Bedford Citizens Advice or phone 01234 867944. If you are a bpha tenant, you can find further advice from its Money Advice Service. St Andrew's Church, Bedford offers free, confidential and impartial advice for people affected by debt. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) offers free debt advice and support. Visit the website or phone 0800 328 0006. Crisis or emergency grant If you are on a low income and have an unexpected crisis or an emergency the Council may be able to help with a crisis grant. Household support grants Bedford Borough Council is prioritising grants to vulnerable households that have the lowest level of income as assessed through the Council Tax Support application process, which provides a high level of detail regarding the household income. For full details about the Household Support Fund, please visit the Household Support Fund 2023-2024 page. Help for Anglian Water customers Anglian Water is offering tailored affordability support to its eligible customers. Warm Homes Bedford Borough Service If you have a health condition that could be made worse by living in a cold or damp home, you may be eligible for support through the Warm Homes Bedford Borough Service. Sustainable Warmth Sustainable Warmth is a new government grant scheme designed to fund energy-efficiency upgrades for residents who are most likely to be impacted by the high cost of rising bills. These improvements will help residents to use less energy and spend less on their energy bills by: using energy-saving technology and upgrades installed by approved installers creating warmer, healthier homes helping to cut carbon emissions providing funding for homes on and off the gas grid The energy-efficiency grants will cover a range of energy-saving home improvements designed to balance the needs of residents with carbon reduction and grant availability.