Camden Council sets out £2m emergency cost of living fund

Cllr Richard Olszewski cabinet member for finance in Camden

Cllr Richard Olszewski cabinet member for finance in Camden - Credit: Camden Council

An emergency £2m cost of living fund is being set up to help cash-strapped residents in Camden.

The fund is part of the Labour-run council’s aim of working with public services, residents and voluntary organisations “to ensure that no child, no resident and no family in Camden go hungry or cold” and to help people avoid debt.

The cabinet member for finance, Cllr Richard Olszewski, said in a cost-of-living report: “Faced with the escalating crisis in the cost of living, there is a risk that this pushes residents into deeper poverty and brings those just about managing into financial crisis.”

An estimated 37% of Camden’s children are living in poverty according to  research in 2020  by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – one of the UK’s highest rates.

In April 10,084 of the 24,770 low income households, just over 43% , had council tax or rent arrears.

This was an increase since January of 500 families, who owed £3 million between them, with more than half at risk or in financial difficulties.

Cllr Olszewski said: “We are seeing a significant increase in problem debt for our most vulnerable residents.”

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The fund will include crisis payments for people hit hard by rising costs of food, energy and other essential costs and resettlement grants if they need equipment when they move into a new home.

It will replace the local welfare assistance scheme.

People facing hardship can get up to £500 in a one-off payment, with no more than two per household a year.

Payments will include money paid into bank accounts; supermarket, clothing or energy vouchers; one-off help with debt; and small grants to replace or repair appliances or to improve home insulation.

Camden plans to set aside £250,000 for resettlement grants of up to £1,000 each, split between council and private tenants in need of essential items such as a mattress or fridge when they move into an unfurnished new home.

Last year the council spent £600,000 or made 3,800 hardship payments from its household support fund and local welfare assistance scheme for residents.

More than half went to struggling families with children. The council joined forces with Camden Advice Network to deliver the grants.

The fund is due to be rubber-stamped by the cabinet on Wednesday (July 20).