Published 22 June 2022

More than £5million is being invested across West Dunbartonshire to support those hardest hit by the cost of living crisis.

West Dunbartonshire Council is investing the sum as part of an initiative to support families, the elderly, carers, those with additional support needs, vulnerable households and local businesses.

The pioneering scheme will see a range of different projects launched to assist with rising costs including the creation of a £1million Cost of Living Fund.

The fund will initially be used to provide an additional £1000 per week to West Dunbartonshire foodbanks; free summer swimming for school pupils; free all-inclusive family leisure memberships from July to August for vulnerable families identified by Working4U; free West Dunbartonshire Leisure gym memberships over summer for 14-18 year old pupils; and support for the Recycle Room in Clydebank, a community group which takes unwanted items and redistributes to those in need.

Other investments being made through the initiative, which was outlined as part of an emergency motion to Council, will include the creation of a household energy fund of £250,000 and an innovative partnership with major energy suppliers to ensure residents experiencing significant levels of fuel poverty receive support and early intervention to maintain their utility supply.

Targeted community bulk uplifts and grass cutting will also be undertaken where families do not have the funds to pay for these items in addition to litter picking to clean up communities.

An investment of £1million will fund free access to activities for children during school holidays, with a further £1million of capital earmarked to support community groups and voluntary organisations with their own cost of living initiatives.

And a range of information will be highlighted to residents through Council channels to ensure they know how to access support including how to check they are receiving all income they are entitled to including benefits and grants.

The motion also detailed a range of support planned through West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership budgets, subject to approval at their Integrated Joint Board meeting in August.

The assistance incorporates a £1m help for carers package, including respite to support unpaid carers, kinship carers and foster carers.

Additional funding for employees in the welfare rights service will ensure residents are well supported with advice and guidance  around budgeting to help mitigate the cost of living crisis.

In addition to the above, councillors indicated their intention to abolish £1.5m of non-residential care charges later this year, covering the loss of income through the Health and Social Care Partnership’s unearmarked reserves.

The details of the plan were outlined to members at the meeting of the Council today (Wednesday), where it was unanimously approved.

Council Leader, Councillor Martin Rooney said: “The spiralling cost of living is hitting our communities hard and we know this will increase further as we move into winter. This crisis needs national intervention to address it fully however in West Dunbartonshire we can make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our residents and ensure that they don’t have to choose between heating and eating.

“Some of the steps we are taking are simple, such as ensuring residents know how to check they are receiving all the benefits they are entitled to and making sure foodbanks are well stocked. But with up to 7 million people in the UK missing out on income related benefits, this small step will make a big difference.

“As a Council we have a responsibility to support all of our residents through this challenge – young people, the elderly, families, carers and businesses - and I’m confident that the additional investment to strengthen the support we offer will have something to benefit everyone.”

Deputy Council Leader, Councillor Michelle McGinty, who will lead a cross-party Cost of Living Working Group with elected members and officers to develop further initiatives and ensure continued focus on the issue, added: “We are hearing every day of the struggles our residents are facing, and the most vulnerable people in our communities are being hardest hit. Doing everything we can to help address that in West Dunbartonshire is our key priority.

“Though the cost of living crisis may make us think of financial challenges, it is important to remember that it brings with it a huge number of other challenges too especially for our residents’ health. That’s why we want to include support in our programme for carers and young carers, residents with additional support needs, those experiencing poor mental health and also invested to provide increased access to food supplies.

“Our aim is that nobody in West Dunbartonshire struggles because of the cost of living. I would urge all residents to get in touch and find out what support they are eligible for and how our comprehensive package of support can assist them.”