Help with the Cost of Living
We understand that the cost of living is bringing many challenges to families and causing significant financial stress. We hope the following information can guide you to sources of support and advice for any specific queries you may have.
For general help and advice with family worries, you can visit the below:
- Family Support NI
- Family Support Hubs
- Citizens advice about local council support for children and families
Furthermore, each of Northern Ireland’s eleven councils have produced information on local resources and contacts to help families in the current cost of living crisis. Click here to find out more.
You can also access useful information about the cost of living crisis support from Belfast City Council here.
Check out some information and tips below in relation to the cost of living crisis.
Keeping Your Home Warm
Many families are finding it hard to afford keeping their home at the temperature needed to stay warm and healthy.
Living in a cold and damp home can lead to:
- More respiratory infections.
- Higher levels of asthma.
- Effects on mental health such as depression.
- Slower growth and development for children.
- Less money to spend on food.
- Family stress.
Simple ways to save energy in the home:
- Turn off standby appliances such as your TV at the wall.
- Turn down your thermostat.
- Turn off heating in rooms you are not using.
- Switch off lights when you leave a room.
- Fill kettles only with the water you need.
- Put a lid on pans when cooking.
- Slow cookers and microwaves are the most efficient cooking methods – gas hobs are more energy efficient compared to electric hobs.
- Wash clothes at a lower temperature.
- If you have one make sure your water immersion heater is not on all day.
- Be smarter about hot water use – use a washing up bowl instead of running a tap and reduce shower time.
- Draw your curtains at dusk to stop draughts and heat loss.
- Fit radiator foil behind radiators on external walls.
- Move furniture away from radiators and heaters.
- Draught proof your property – use draught excluders, seal cracks in floors and skirting boards, block unused chimneys and line your letterbox.
- Monitor your energy use.
How can I get help?
NI Energy Advice offer free independent and impartial energy advice to domestic householders in Northern Ireland, including advice about energy grants and other sources of help.
The Consumer Council for Northern Ireland has a free energy price comparison tool with updated gas and electricity tariffs.
Social enterprise buying groups and clubs have also been set up in Northern Ireland to bulk buy oil for their members. These groups/ clubs can get discounts from oil suppliers by buying in bulk. No matter how much oil you buy, everyone pays the same price per litre and benefits from the lower prices. You can check if there’s a club in your area here.
Damp and Mould
Children living in a damp home are up to three times more likely to have breathing problems. The most common cause of damp is condensation and this happens when water in the air comes into contact with a cold surface, for example, a wall or window.
Sometimes damp or mould happens when a house needs repairs, for example, a leaking pipe. Try to find out what is causing the damp first and then fix the problem. You may need advice from a damp specialist or a builder.
Tips to reduce damp in your home:
- Dry clothes outside or use a vented tumble dryer.
- Keep lids on pans when cooking.
- Use an extractor fan when cooking or showering.
- Keep the kitchen or bathroom door closed and open a window so that moist air goes outside.
- Let fresh air circulate by leaving a gap between walls and furniture.
- Heat your home a little more if possible as very cold rooms are more likely to get damp or mouldy – it helps to keep your home above 15 degrees.
- Wipe down damp windows with a cloth and wring it out (don’t dry it on a radiator).
- Open bedroom windows for 5-10 minutes every morning.
- Insulate your home, e.g. your loft.
- Draught proof your doors.
Damp can lead to mould growing on the walls which can be worrying as mould is a type of fungus. Mould produces spores in which your child can breathe in and this may worsen asthma.
What to do about damp and mould if you rent your home
Tell your landlord if you have damp especially if it is affecting your child’s health.
You can also raise a concern with a health professional in clinic or emergency department. Click here to find out more.
Pests (Rats/ Insects)
Problems with your home can sometimes lead to pests e.g. ants, rats, mites and bedbugs. It isn’t always clear who is responsible for dealing with pests, however, your landlord will probably be responsible if the problem has happened because repairs are needed, for example, fixing holes in the wall. You might be responsible for dealing with the problem if it was caused by something you did, for example, not disposing of rubbish properly.
Tips for avoiding rats:
- Block up gaps around pipes
- Repair holes in the pointing
- Keep rubbish in your bin and avoid it overflowing
- Don’t leave bin bags outside
- Don’t feed the birds as it will also attract rats and mice
How can I get help?
Every council varies in the pest control service it provides. Belfast City Council provides a free control service for most pests, whilst other councils will simply provide advice or control for a fee. Contact your local council to check its pest control provision.
You can find out more on the NI Direct website.
Budget Worries and Debt Advice
A personal budget will help you make the most of your money and avoid over commitment, it will also help you plan for the future and negotiate with any people you owe money to.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, the best place to start can be by getting some free impartial advice. You can find out how to do this along with a template budget planner and lots of other advice by clicking the links below:
- Advice NI’s Tips to Budget and Save
- Money Helper’s Options for Clearing your Debts in Northern Ireland
- NI Direct’s Budgeting Advice
- Debt Advice NI
- Christians Against Poverty
Benefits and Financial Support
In addition, if you are a carer, check out the support below:
Help with Travel Costs from Hospital Visits
If you’re on low income, you may be able to access financial help from the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme.
You can claim hospital travel visits if you or those you depend on get at least one of the following:
- Income Support
- Jobseeker’s Allowance (income-based)
- Employment and Support Allowance (income-related)
- Guarantee Pension Credit
Depending on your income level, you may also qualify for the scheme if you get one of the following:
- Child Tax Credit (with or without Working Tax Credit)
- Working Tax Credit with the disability element or severe disability element
Household Food Costs
Providing healthy regular meals for your family can be costly and stressful.
Here are some tips provided by Money to cut the cost of your weekly shop:
1. Do one weekly shop
2. Plan your meals and make a list
3. Download supermarket apps or shop online
4. Only buy offers on food you need
5. Don’t stick to brands
6. Use a specific card or cash for spending
7. Make the most of your freezer
There are several food banks in Northern Ireland for those who need extra support.
In order to get support from a food bank, you will need to be referred with a voucher which can be issued by a number of local community organisations (schools, GPs and advice agencies).
Your local food bank can advise which agencies can help:
Page developed in conjunction with the national HT team and colleagues in West Yorkshire, find out more here.