Aspire has launched an emergency appeal to provide more support for those most in need in Oxfordshire, as the cost of living surges.

Aspire’s new campaign will enable an emergency response to the upcoming season’s energy hike and other spiking living costs such as private rents, which is set to lead to an unacceptable rise in fuel poverty, hardship and homelessness in Oxfordshire this winter. This is under Aspire’s wider strategy to support more people into independence, and to find employment  and housing stability, including investing in homelessness prevention.

With annual energy bills forecast to soar by 80% to an average of £3,500, risking millions being pushed into unmanageable debt across the country, Aspire is preparing to intensify its engagement with the most disadvantaged members of the local community in Oxfordshire. This will include supporting more people to access paid employment and secure housing opportunities, providing more homelessness prevention support and access to energy efficiency measures, so they can sustain themselves with security and dignity.

With match-funding in place from a local donor, every pound donated to Aspire’s emergency appeal by the end of this year will be doubled, up to £200,000. Aspire is now calling on members of the public to support its appeal, including by donating their £400 energy rebate if they don’t need it.

If successful, the campaign will transform Aspire’s capacity to reach hundreds of people most in need of help, providing a flexible and timely response to individual needs. This includes tailored, wrap-around employment and housing support, with supplementary immediate and short-term funding as needed - critical for the people who turn to Aspire for support to move into more secure or independent accommodation, cover rent arrears on an emergency basis to prevent eviction, and purchase essential household items.

Aspire recently joined over 20 homelessness sector organisations in signing an open letter by Homeless Link, calling on the UK government to take action on homelessness, recommit to ending rough sleeping and reform the private rental sector, at a time of inflation rising to 10.1% - a forty year high - and private sector rents at record levels.

Aspire will use some of the funds raised to address longer-term needs, and roll-out initiatives such as:

  • Expanding Aspire’s Social Lettings project, matching and supporting private landlords with tenants on a low income to provide a genuinely affordable rent
  • Bringing forward a pilot of modular housing development on disused land in Oxford city
  • Introducing interventions to improve fuel efficiency for people on low incomes, with advice to reduce fuel poverty, and implement energy efficiency measures in supported housing
  • Rolling out employment and digital inclusion support, including digital devices and wi-fi access to people accessing community food larders across Oxfordshire

Paul Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of Aspire Oxford, says:

"The timing of our new campaign is crucial and we’d be enormously grateful for any assistance from the public to enable Aspire to step up so we can reach hundreds of people most in need this winter, to roll out initiatives that we know can make a difference for the long-term. We have this time limited, extraordinary opportunity with the generous matched funding too, so if you can, please donate your £400 energy rebate to support our work this winter."