We know many of our residents are struggling to make ends meet due to the increased cost of living.

Our recently launched £5million campaign of support is designed to help families most in need.

From energy funds, to abolishing social care charges and investing in holiday programmes to ensure our young people still benefit from a nutritious lunch and engaging events over the holidays, we want to make sure that no resident in West Dunbartonshire has to choose between heating and eating.

As well as these new initiatives, there is a range of support and advice already available.

Seek energy advice and research available fuel grants

We’re working on a partnership with major energy providers so if you are struggling to pay for energy or think you may get into difficulty, contact your supplier and let them know. They may be able to offer a grant to help.

If you can’t get a grant from your supplier, check if you can get a grant from the British Gas Energy Trust (0121 348 7797). These grants are available to anyone - you don’t have to be a British Gas customer.

The Council provide free and impartial energy advice to all residents, homeowners and private tenants living in the West Dunbartonshire area.

We can offer free home visits to offer tailored advice, heating advice to ensure you are using your system efficiently and support obtaining grants to increase property insulation and heat retention.

We can also offer guidance on all aspects of domestic fuel related issues such as cutting down on fuel bills, understanding your bills, choosing a supplier, payment methods, arrears and debt, reading meters and keeping you warm in your home.

Support with finances and paying bills is available from our Working4U team by visiting: Working4U | West Dunbartonshire Council (west-dunbarton.gov.uk)

There are many small steps you can take to reduce your energy usage and lower your bills.

Not all energy saving measures are expensive. The quick tips below could save you up to £564 a year on your bills.

  • Turn off lights: by turning your lights off when they aren’t in use, you can save around £25 on your annual energy bills. If you replace the lights in your home with LED bulbs you could save even more.
  • Switch off standby: You could save around £65 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off at the plug. You can even use a standby saver or smart plug which allows you to turn off all your appliances at once without leaving them on standby and using energy.
  • Check washing machine temperatures:  Using your washing machine on a 30-degree cycle instead of higher temperatures and reducing your usage by one cycle a week could save you around £34 a year on your energy bill.
  • Avoid the tumble dryer: Where possible, dry your clothes on racks inside where possible (or outside in dry weather) and save £70 a year.
  • Shower & Bath: Aim to shorten your shower time to 4 minutes and a typical household will save £95 a year. If you swap one bath a week for a 4-minute shower, you’ll save a further £20.
  • Savvy in the kitchen: Avoiding overfilling your kettle could save you £13 per year, while only using the dishwasher when it is full and reducing your dishwasher usage could save you £17.
  • Top up your insulation: Insulating your water tank, pipes and radiators is a quick and easy way to save money on your bills. Even if you have thin spray foam or a loose 25mm jacket, you can benefit from increasing the insulation to a British Standard Jacket 80mm thick, you could save £70 (£65 in NI) a year in the process.

For further information on quick ways to reduce your energy usage, please visit: Quick tips to save energy at home - Energy Saving Trust

Check your benefits

Up to 7 million people in the UK miss out on income-related state benefits, with an estimated £15bn of benefits going unclaimed each year.

Make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to. Our Working4U team can help with benefit maximisation, or you can use an online benefits calculator.

To contact our Working4U team by submitting a Working4U Referral Form, or phone 01389 738296 or email working4u@west-dunbarton.gov.uk

Look into Pension Credit

If you’re over State Pension age, check if you’re eligible for Pension Credit. It provides extra money for living costs as well as access to additional support. It is estimated that 123,000 eligible households in Scotland are not claiming the payment, often because they don’t know they can or how they claim.

If you are of State Pension age and have savings, own your own home or have a retirement income, you may still be entitled to Pension Credit. An award can provide help with housing costs, Council Tax, heating bills and, for those aged 75 or over, a free TV licence.

Take advantage of free childcare

All three and four year olds, and eligible two years olds are entitled to 1140 hours of free early learning and childcare. 1140 hours is equivalent to 30 hours per week over a school year (38 weeks) or 22.5 hours per week over a full year (50 weeks). You can apply for a place at a local authority nursery, a private provider nursery in partnership with West Dunbartonshire Council or a childminder who is in partnership with the Council.

You may also be eligible for a Scottish Child Payment to help towards the costs of supporting your family. This is a weekly payment of £25 for every child you look after who's under 16 years of age. Paid every four weeks, it can be used for things like travel costs, nappies, childcare or family days out.

Seek help if your benefits don’t cover your rent

If Housing Benefit or Universal Credit doesn’t cover all your rent, check to see if you can make a claim for a discretionary housing payment.

You can apply through the Council Discretionary Housing Payments

Check your eligibility for a Council Tax Reduction

If you are a West Dunbartonshire resident of working age and claim means-tested benefits including Universal Credit, you may be eligible to apply for a Council Tax Reduction. This is means-tested and could reduce your bill.

Help if you’re experiencing illness or disability

If you or a family member are experiencing illness or disability, you could be entitled to benefits. These include Personal Independence Payment (PIP) (for adults under state retirement age), Attendance Allowance (for those over state retirement age), and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) (for children under 16, for new claims. These are not means-tested and consider the way your health conditions affect daily living and mobility. If you receive these benefits, your entitlement to other benefits, including Pension Credit may increase. More information is available on our Benefits if you are Sick, Disabled or a Carer page.

Please Seek advice if you already claim disability benefits such as DLA for adults, as your award will stop if you claim PIP instead.

If you’re too unwell to work, you may be entitled to New Style Employment and Support Allowance and/or Universal Credit with Limited Capability for Work or Work Related Activity.

If you are unsure and need support, please contact our Working4U team by submitting a Working4U Referral Form, or on 01389 738296 or working4u@west-dunbarton.gov.uk or your local Citizens Advice bureau.

Our partnership with Macmillan on the Improving the Cancer Journey initiative supports people diagnosed with Cancer understand what help they can get, including support with benefits.

Make a Carer’s Allowance claim

We recently invested in a £1million package of support for carers, which includes respite to support unpaid carers, kinship carers and foster carers.

If you are a carer, you may also be entitled to Carer’s Allowance and/or an extra payment called the carer’s element within Universal Credit. This could mean £69.70 a week in Carer's Allowance if you care for someone at least 35 hours a week and you, the person you care for and the type of care you provide meets the criteria. Details about this allowance are others are available on our Benefits if you are Sick, Disabled or a Carer page.

Make use of local foodbanks

We understand the importance of foodbanks so we’ve committed to providing local foodbanks with an extra £1000 each week to ensure they have enough food to meet demand in the area.

If you are struggling to afford enough food to feed yourself and your family, let us know. Our Working4U officers can discuss your options, including a potential referral to a local foodbank for support. Many local foodbanks do not require a referral, and anyone in need can attend, see our food share page for more information.

Take advantage of grants supporting families with children

Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods are payments that help towards the costs of being pregnant or looking after a child.

Best Start Grant is made up of 3 one-off payments:

  • Pregnancy and Baby Payment
  • Early Learning Payment
  • School Age Payment.

Best Start Foods is a prepaid card that can be used in shops or online to buy healthy foods like milk or fruit. The payments you can get now will depend on:

  • how far along in your pregnancy you are
  • how old your child is.

Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods are two separate payments. You apply for both Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods using the same form to ensure you get all the payments you can without having to fill in more than one form. You'll get separate letters to let you know whether you'll get each payment.

If you can get one payment now and another in the future, you'll need to fill in a new form each time you apply.

Reduce the cost of the school day

All Primary 1 – 5 pupils in West Dunbartonshire are automatically entitled to free school meals.

If your child is not in the above year groups, you can still apply for a free school meal.

You may also be eligible to apply for a School Clothing Grant, which is £300 per child and paid in two instalments.

You may be eligible for an Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) if you are aged 16-19 and wish to stay on in education. Applications are open for the school year 2022/2023 commencing in August.

Take the worry out of school holidays with activities and meals

The Council’s SHINE summer programme, run in partnership with a number of local organisations, offers our young people a range of free engaging activities to entertain them over the holidays, with many providing a free lunch, see what is on offer and book your child(ren) in.

To further support families, West Dunbartonshire Council has funded some free activities for West Dunbartonshire school pupils over the summer as follows:

Free swimming from 11.00am – 3.00pm for West Dunbartonshire School Pupils every day (subject to availability)

Participants must attend a West Dunbartonshire school or be a resident, they must have a valid Leisure Card. The first card is issued for free, but replacement cards are to be charged at £2. Inflatable sessions are not included.

Free gym access for 12- 18yr old West Dunbartonshire School Pupils

Participants can access juvenile gym sessions (12.00noon – 4.00pm) free of charge over the summer. Participants must attend a West Dunbartonshire school or be a resident, and have a valid Leisure Card. The first card is issued for free, but replacement cards are to be charged at £2. Those in this category who have current gym memberships will not have to pay their July membership fee as their membership will be frozen and will pay half price for August.

You may be eligible for a Free School Meal Payment (£2.50 per day per eligible child). This payment covers lunches throughout the school holidays. For more information, please contact FSM@west-dunbarton.gov.uk

A Bridging Payment (£260 per child) will be paid to families already in receipt of Free School Meals via our Benefits section. This payment will be made to you automatically. In 2022, 3 payments of £130 will be made at Easter, Summer and October and 1 payment of £260 will be made in December. 

Young people aged 5-21 years old are now eligible for a card giving free bus travel. A new National Entitlement card will be required to access the scheme.

Ask for debt advice early

If you’re in debt, seek advice early rather than let things spiral out of control. As well as contacting Working4U for support, residents can also get help from StepChange or Citizens Advice Bureau.

Use West Dunbartonshire’s free period products

We work with UK Social Enterprise HeyGirls to ensure everyone in West Dunbartonshire who has a period will have convenient access to appropriate products free of charge, as required. The products are available in schools and community venues across the authority.

You can find venues that are stocking the products on the MyPeriodLive website or by downloading the PickupMyPeriod app on IoS and Android. Most venues stock these products in the toilets to avoid the need to ask for them, and residents are encouraged to take as much as they need for their cycle.

Seek emergency assistance

The Scottish Welfare Fund can help families and people in Scotland who are on low incomes. There are two types of one-off grant you can apply for.

A crisis grant may be available if you need urgent help with costs that have arisen as a result of a disaster or emergency, to keep you and your family safe from harm. You may be in crisis because of a disaster like a fire or flood, or an emergency such as losing all your money or having to visit a sick child in hospital.

Community care grants may be available to you if you are about to leave care to live on your own in the community; you face going into care because you don't have the things you need to continue living at home; you require help because you are struggling to provide a safe and secure home for your family; or you need help to get essential household items like a cooker or washing machine but don't have the money to buy it.

Speak to Working4U employability

Our Working4U employability team can offer a range of support whether you are looking to re-enter the workplace, re-train or gain new skills. This can help you maximise your income through employment. We will support you to overcome barriers you face to gaining or retaining employment, and we work with a range of partners to strengthen this offer. If you require support, please contact the team.

Look after your mental health

The cost of living crisis has created uncertainty and money worries are at the forefront of everyone’s minds. This ongoing stress can manifest in feelings of embarrassment or shame, and impact on your mental wellbeing. It is important to seek and advice and support if your money struggles are contributing to poor mental health, as ongoing mental health concerns can also impact your income and outgoings.

Information on how to seek help locally can be found here: https://www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/health-social-care/mental-health/adult-mental-health-services/

You can also seek support in the following ways:

  • Contact your GP
  • Look up information online on the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) website or NHS inform
  • access self-help courses online - for example, moodgym, Steps for Stress and SilverCloud courses
  • phone a helpline - for example Breathing Space (0800 83 85 87) or Samaritans (116 123)

Many people find it difficult to ask for help, but there are a wide range of services available, and you can choose the services that appeal to you.