A new pot of funding has been announced for residents living in Devon who are struggling to afford food, utility bills or other essential costs.
Devon County Council (DCC) said the county has been allocated £5million for a government-backed Housing Support Fund, helping those on the lowest incomes.
DCC said there were conditions on how the money could be used, but £200,000 would be allocated to support Devon residents on prepayment, or ‘pay-as-you-go’ meters, to help with rising energy bills.
The majority of the funding will be handed out to families with children and people of pensionable age, who are struggling financially, DCC said.
Information on how to apply for the financial help will be made available once the details are finalised, DCC said.
Cllr Roger Croad, who is responsible for communities, said the money was a ‘timely reprieve’ for struggling households.
He said the council planned to offer further help through free school meal holiday vouchers, one-off help for OAPs struggling with day-to-day living costs, and extra help for those on energy prepayment meters.
Cllr Croad said: “Rising energy and petrol prices, and rising costs of goods in our shops and on our supermarket shelves at a time when a lot of households have seen reductions in their incomes, means many people in Devon are feeling the pinch.
“For example, prepay customers are often already paying more for their energy, are more likely to be in vulnerable circumstances, and have seen their energy prices rise considerably in recent months.”
The county council is working with the eight district and city councils in Devon, and Citizens Advice Devon, to develop schemes to make the funding available.
Cllr Croad said: “Working with Citizens Advice Devon, we intend to provide further support to prepayment meter customers, who are struggling to pay for their new higher energy costs.
“We will also continue to make our free school meal holiday vouchers available for the seven-week May half-term and summer holidays, to ensure children and young people who are eligible for benefit-related free school meals don’t go hungry during the holidays.
“And we are working with our district council colleagues to identify people of pensionable age, that we know from local data are struggling financially, to offer some additional one-off assistance.”