We are writing to you this week against the backdrop of the crisis unfolding in Ukraine. Leeds has a long and proud history of helping those in need and we are doing everything we can to support the relief effort and welcome displaced Ukrainians to our city.
We recently launched the Leeds Together for Ukraine appeal, and the total is already approaching £70,000. Every donation will help to provide accommodation and support for Ukrainians who have lost their homes.
Thank you to all who have donated, and to our partners helping with the appeal. They include the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (Leeds branch), Migration Yorkshire and Leeds Community Foundation.
Another way you can help is by registering with the government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme if you are able to offer accommodation for at least six months.
We know however that closer to home the rising cost of living is a serious concern. We will outline below where to get advice if you are worried about money, as well as update you on the local coronavirus situation.
Helping you with money matters
With the rising cost of living putting pressure on household budgets, please remember there is support on hand if you are worried about managing your money and your fuel bills. Advice is free and confidential.
The Leeds Money Information Centre is a one-stop route to local and national support with money, debt, energy bills, budgeting and benefits. The dedicated energy advisers at Citizens Advice Leeds can help you with energy affordability and support you in negotiations with your energy provider if you are in difficulty.
The 25 community hubs across Leeds provide information in person or by phone and can signpost you to other organisations in the city for assistance tailored to your specific circumstances.
If you need urgent help with paying for food, gas or electricity you can call our welfare support team on 0113 376 0330 Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm (from 10am on Wednesdays).
Subject to household eligibility, there is funding available for high quality attic insulation to keep homes warmer and cut energy bills. Find out the criteria and apply by 31 March.
Energy bills rebate and council tax
During April, we will pay the government energy bills rebate of £150 to most households in council tax bands A to D. If you pay by Direct Debit, the rebate will be paid directly into your bank account. If you use another payment method you must apply for the rebate by completing an online form, which will be available from 4 April. If you need help with the online form just ask at one of our community hubs.
Your council tax bill for 2022/23 includes more information about the rebate. Please read this carefully and keep your bill handy so you can find your council tax account number. You’ll need it if you have to claim the rebate or make any enquiries about your account.
Visit our webpage £150 council tax rebate to find out more and apply online once the form is live.
Living safely with Covid
The Covid-19 case rate in Leeds has reached 462 per 100K, a significant increase of over 50% in the past week. The case rate in England stands at 617 per 100K.
Whilst a rise in cases was likely as the lifting of restrictions led to increasing social contacts, the disease is less severe for most individuals who have been vaccinated. However the case rates are a timely reminder that Covid-19 remains with us and is a source of anxiety for those who are clinically vulnerable. We can all help by maintaining some simple precautions.
As the weather improves, we can enjoy meeting friends and family outdoors which is much safer. If you do have to spend time together indoors, you can reduce the risk of spreading the virus by opening windows and doors for fresh air and wearing face coverings where possible. Please remember to wash your hands regularly and try to stay at home if you are unwell.
During the pandemic it has been reassuring to be able to test regularly for Covid. It’s important to note that under the living with Covid strategy the government will stop providing free universal Covid-19 testing from 1 April. In-person test sites in Leeds offering PCR tests for people with coronavirus symptoms will close on 31 March. After that date lateral flow kits for asymptomatic testing will no longer be issued free of charge but can be purchased from retail outlets.
With effect from today, all Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted for people arriving into England from abroad. Other countries still have entry rules in place, so you should check travel advice before departure from the UK.
Vaccination is the best protection
With restrictions lifted, the national living with Covid strategy centres on vaccines as the best line of defence against the virus. The effectiveness of the vaccines is constantly monitored and the data shows that two doses help you avoid serious illness while a booster dose as well makes you 90% less likely to need hospital treatment.
It’s never too late to start your Covid-19 vaccination course and there are clinics across the city where you can either book or walk in for your first, second or booster dose. Find a walk-in vaccination clinic near you or use the NHS booking service.
An additional booster dose will be offered this spring to those aged 75 or over, older residents in care homes and over 12s with a weakened immune system. You will be offered the booster around six months after your last dose of vaccine.
The vaccine is also being rolled out to all five to 11-year-olds from April, starting in the Easter holidays. Parents will receive information offering them the chance to make an appointment for their child’s vaccination.
Backdated applications for self-isolation support
The self-isolation support scheme ended when the law on self-isolation was lifted on 24 February. However, if you were required to self-isolate before that date, you may still have time to apply for the self-isolation support payment. You can apply up to 42 days from your first day of isolation and must submit your application via the council website no later than Wednesday 6 April.
And finally…a week left to nominate in the Child Friendly Leeds Awards 2022
The Child Friendly Leeds Awards will be extra special this year. Not only is it their 10th birthday, Child Friendly Leeds is also celebrating all the wonderful ways in which Leeds is the best city for children and young people – even when there’s a global pandemic.
The awards were cancelled last year due to Covid restrictions, so if you know of a child, young person, adult or organisation deserving recognition for amazing achievements over the past two years, please tell us! Make your nomination online by 10pm on Friday 25 March.