Cost of living crisis: South Tyneside chiefs planning 'warm spaces' and extra benefits advice this winter to help families struggling with their finances

Town hall chiefs are drawing up a raft of measures to try and help South Tyneside families cope with the cost of living crisis this winter.

And with many expected to struggle to heat their homes and cover the cost of cooking food, a plea has already gone out for “warm and welcome” public spaces to see people through the worst of the winter.

South Tyneside Councillors Ruth Berkley and Eileen Leask with council leader Tracey Dixon (right) at Horsley Hill Community Pantry.

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And as the summer draws to a close, bosses at South Tyneside Council are already seeing an increase in demand for support services.

Cllr Ruth Berkley, cabinet member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Equalities, said: “There is no doubt that the soaring cost of energy combined with rising inflation is already having a devastating impact on our residents.

“More children than ever used our Holiday Clubs and Activities while there has been a huge increase in the use of school uniform banks and we are seeing more people in work access food banks.

"Furthermore, Citizens’ Advice estimates that one in four people in South Tyneside – and across the country - will be in fuel poverty by October.”

She added: “As a council we are committed to doing all we can to support our residents through these incredibly challenging times.

“However, there is only so much we can do and we feel strongly that both energy companies and the government should be doing more to help people.

"An element of our work will be communicating this to those with means to offer this support.”

The council is considering setting up “warm refuges” in its own buildings, such as libraries, with a directory expected to be published detailing all locations in the borough signed up to the scheme.

The borough’s own Poverty Group is also looking at measures to help households reduce their bills, including advice on reducing energy consumption and access to lower cost transport, as well as guidance onaccess to benefits and food banks.