Welfare hub

Welcome to The Welfare Hub

Here at Bishop Auckland College, we want to be able to offer our students and their families any additional support and information we can when it comes to the current cost of living crisis.

Millions of households across the UK are currently struggling to make their income stretch to cover the rising cost of living. Around three in four adults (77%) reported feeling very or somewhat worried about the rising costs of living in a recent report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

We have put together some useful information, links, hints and tips in hope this may give you guidance and/or save you a few pennies (or pounds) here and there.

If you or your household are facing extreme hardship, please contact lisa.robson@bacoll.ac.uk to see if we can help you further.

Getting help

Gov.uk has a dedicated page offering information on available help throughout the cost of living crisis. This includes information on:

  • Help with energy bills
  • Energy saving advice
  • Household costs
  • Help with childcare costs
  • Help with finding work

Please visit Help for Households - Get government cost of living support for further information.

There is a lot of information on the above link about help with energy bills such as:

  • The cost of living payments
  • Disability cost of living payment
  • Pensioner cost of living payment
  • Winter fuel payments
  • Cold weather payments
  • Improving energy efficiency in your home
  • Warm home discount (and link to see if you are eligible)
  • Help to heat – information on energy grants

There is also valuable information at Help with your money - Durham County Council

You can also get free confidential advice from the Money Advice Service and the National Debtline.

Money Advice Service – 08001387777 / www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk

National Debtline – 08088084000 / www.nationaldebtline.org

Food banks and local help

The Angel Trust
The Angel Trust is a charity which aims to support individuals and organisations in the local community by providing financial support and services to those in need. Its aim is to improve the local community and make life better for those living within it.

The charity offers a drop-in service, should you need any support with housing, landlord issues and unmanageable debts. It can also help you apply for benefits. The drop-in takes place every Monday from 1pm - 3pm at The Angel Trust’s building: Belvedere House, Kingsway, Bishop Auckland, DL14 7JN. The contact number if you need to speak to anyone is 01388 737270. You can also find the charity on Facebook.

The Trust’s pantry is open on a Tuesday from 10am - 2pm and 4pm - 7pm and Friday from 10am - 2pm. You can fill a basket for just a £5 donation! There is also a food bank which can be used by those in severe financial hardship.

This is an amazing charity and the work The Angel Trust does plays a significant role in the community of Bishop Auckland and surrounding areas.

The Bread and Butter Thing
This is a mobile food club which provides a low cost weekly shop with essential produce for family eating – fresh fruit and veg, fridge favourites and cupboard staples. Prices range from £4 for an individual bag to £15 for a large family. You will always pay much less than in the shops and have new foods to try. Please visit
The Bread and Butter Thing for further information or to join.

Shildon Alive
Shildon Alive is a St. John's Church community-based initiative. The Hub at 91-95 Church Street Shildon is base for a community shop, shelves for all and takeaway, credit union, food bank and learning centre. Find out more at
shildonalive.org.uk or by calling 07385 924163 Monday to Friday 9am-3pm.

Woodhouse Close Church and Community Centre
The crisis intervention team is available Monday to Thursday 9am-4.30pm and Friday 9am – 12.30pm. You can contact the team on
whclosecomm@gmail.com or you can call 01388 450838.

Support on offer includes food parcels, budgeting, gas and electricity, help completing forms etc. The centre also has a warm room which can be accessed by anyone. This is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays between 9.30am – 2.30pm and offers tea, coffee, toast and soup. You can play board games, do a jigsaw or watch a film, or just sit with others and have some company.

In order to use the crisis intervention team, a referral must be made. This can be done by the job centre, universal credit, a social worker, your GP, a teacher or ourselves here at the college. All they need is an email/phone call confirming that they/we are working you.

Helpful tips to help reduce spending

Money Saving Expert always has lots of good hints and tips for saving money and the page is updated on a regular basis. Here you can find cheap broadband, information on credit cards and loans, information on household bills, how to complain and reclaim, deals and shopping, information on income and budgeting. You can visit the website at moneysavingexpert.com/savings

If you’re struggling to free up cash to save, here are some ways to reduce your spending without feeling like you’re missing out:

Check your utility providers
Comparison websites allow you compare quotes, to see if you could be paying less for household expenses, such as gas, electricity or broadband. Even saving a small amount each month can really add up over the course of a year. If you’re able to switch to cheaper deals, try putting the amount you’ve saved each month into your savings account. You could set up a standing order so you don’t even have to think about it.

Reduce your spending at the supermarket
Food shopping is one of the biggest weekly expenses for families in the UK. From setting a budget, to planning your meals and storing your food, there's a range of things you can do to cut your spending. Visit
hsbc.co.uk/financial-fitness/everyday-budgeting/food-shopping-how-to-save-money-and-waste-less for additional information on how to reduce your supermarket spends.

Cut fuel costs
Making small changes can also help reduce possible fuel costs. Here are some ideas:

  • look for the best prices in your area – even taking a small detour to visit a cheaper petrol station could save you a few pence for every litre
  • take advantage of loyalty card schemes – the more you fill up, the more points you can earn to exchange for money-off vouchers
  • accelerate gradually – this saves you needing to use more power than necessary and can also reduce the chance of having to brake heavily
  • remove any excess weight from the car
  • lower your windows rather than using the air conditioning when it’s hot
  • check the pressure of your tyres regularly to make sure they’re at the right level

Cancel unnecessary subscriptions
Whether it’s fitness apps, TV or magazine subscriptions, it’s easy to sign up to different services and then forget about them. Take a look at your transactions and make a list of all the subscription services you’re paying for. Are there any you don’t use? Start by cutting those. Then look at those you do use – are there any you could do without? You could try cutting those temporarily to see whether or not you miss them.

Search for discounts
When shopping online you’ll see various deals and promo codes. Sometimes, you may have to do something like sign up to a newsletter to receive 10% off your next order. Other times there may be a promo code you can find that will offer you a better deal. It can pay to do a bit of online research to find the latest discounts. Like with your bills, if you’re able to, you could add any money you save to your savings accounts.

Review your debts
If you’ve got a personal loan, credit card, overdraft or mortgage, you’re likely to be charged interest. Depending on your situation, you may be able to minimise the amount of interest you’re being charged and reduce your monthly repayments.

  • Credit card debt - A balance transfer will often let you transfer the balance from one credit card provider to another, offering an interest-free period. If you’re able to clear your debt within that interest-free period, you could potentially save a significant amount of money in interest payments.
  • Personal loan, overdraft and credit card debt - A debt consolidation loan may offer a lower interest rate than overdrafts, credit cards and store cards. Or, if you have multiple debts, a debt consolidation loan may help you bring them all together and create a clear repayment plan. Keep in mind, while you may be able to reduce your monthly repayments with a debt consolidation loan, you may end up repaying more in interest over the long-term.

Look into tax relief and benefits
If you're a PAYE taxpayer, there may be ways you can make savings on your taxes. For example, you could be entitled to tax relief on a uniform you need to buy for work. There are also deductions available if you give to charity, or make maintenance payments, in some circumstances. Find out more about tax relief tax relief This link will open in a new window. You may also be able to claim certain benefits from the Government. There’s a Help to Save scheme, as well as Universal Credit and other services that can help with things like your energy costs.

Check what you're entitled to
Billions of pounds of government benefits and allowances are going unclaimed. You can use
this free calculator to find out if you’re missing out. If you are facing financial hardship please either speak to your tutor or Lisa Robson, Student Finance and Transport Assistant. You can call on 01388 443113 or email at lisa.robson@bacoll.ac.uk

Ten top tips for keeping warm this winter

1. Cover the windows. Feel your windows, if they’re cold, that means they’re making your whole house cold. One important tip: make sure the windows are shut all the way before you cover them.

2. Hot water bottles. Water has a high heat capacity, which means it takes a lot to change its temperature. A bottle of warm water will hold its heat for a while even in a cold house, acting as a very cheap mini-furnace. The rubber bottles made for this purpose may be better insulated and more comfortable to hug, but any bottle will do. A quick DIY cover made out of an old sweater improves warmth. Hot water bottles and modern electric blankets are both great options for preheating your bed keeping you warm you throughout the night. If you are using an electric blanket, be sure to turn it on to warm up your bed and either switch it off or set it on the lowest setting once you’re under the blankets.

3. Hot drinks. This one is hardly a secret, but cup after cup of tea, cocoa, and/or coffee are an integral part of any winter survival plan.

4. Forts. Living-room forts should be familiar to anyone who has ever been or met a child, but here’s how they work: gather as many pillows and blankets as you can from around the house and pile them into an inhabitable structure. They’re not only a fun way to make a mess of the house, forts can keep you warm for free. As long as you’re willing to confine yourself to one room that you leave for food and hot drinks, a fort is a great way to make a final stand against the cold since it concentrates all the available insulation in a smaller space. Fort building is also a fun group activity to combat seasonal affective disorder.

5. Layers. If one doesn’t work, try two, three, seven sweaters or pairs of socks. This is basically the same operating principle as step four: concentrate available warming materials. If you’re cold under a blanket or two, add more. If you’ve nailed all your extra blankets to the walls in accordance with tip one or constructed them into a fort as in tip four, put a few clean towels in between layers. Sure, you may not be able to put your arms at your sides wearing all your flannel and sweaters at the same time, but you won’t be cold. Dress in several layers, and make sure children’s head, neck and hands are covered. Dress babies and young children in one more layer than an adult would wear.

6. Wear socks. Wearing socks to bed when it’s cold causes vasodilation (the dilation of the blood vessels) in your feet which may tell your brain it’s time for bed. Not only will wearing socks keep you warm, but they may also help you fall asleep more easily!

7. Close doors to trap the heat into the room, also, if you don’t have draught excluders, roll up a towel and place it in front of the door to help prevent any unwanted cold air coming through.

8. Curtains. Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows. The ideal would be to install heavy, lined curtains but these can be hugely expensive. (Look for second hand ones.) A curtain across the front door can be improvised with an old blanket.

9. Move around. If you’re physically able, doing a bit of exercise will warm the body and pump blood around. Don’t do too much, though. One thing that you have to be careful of is that, if you start sweating, you’re going to be losing your body heat faster and it will make you cold faster. You need to find that happy balance between being physically active enough that you’re generating heat to stay warm, but not to the point that you’re going to sweat to try to cool down. 10. Company. The most efficient, least costly, and most fun way to stay warm in the face of Winter’s chill is to hang out with friends and family. Besides distracting you from the cold, people produce their own heat. Crowd everyone into a small room or a fort in accordance with step four and feel the literal and figurative warmth. A concentrated crowd can turn an icebox into a party sauna, and everyone can bring their own sweaters and blankets, increasing the collection of warmth beyond your physical into your social network.

Feed the family for under a fiver!

There are loads of meals you can make for a family of four for under a fiver. Here are some websites where you can find recipes. This link allows you to sign up to a weekly newsletter where you will receive a new recipe each week to feed the family for under £5: Rainbow Trust campaign to help families create meals for under £5

Sainsbury’s has a whole section on feeding families for £5, take a look at the website, make a shopping list and head to your preferred supermarket to buy the items you need: Sainsburys feed your family for a fiver

Netmums has a page with a whopping 35 different meals on, all coming in at under £5: netmums 35 meals under £5

Tesco has a page dedicated to recipes for five easy meals for under £25 (working out at £5 per meal): Tesco 5 easy family dinners for £25

Some other links include:

myfoodbook 30 family budget dinner meal ideas

weightwatchers 12 family dinners under £5

Lidl 5 family meals for £20

coop 5 family meal ideas for less than £5

The BBC has a page dedicated to cheap meals. They may come in at over a fiver but take a look anyway. You might be surprised! BBC Good Food - Cheap family recipes