Your Essex - January edition

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Wintery trees with the sun in the background

This edition of Your Essex features plenty of activities to do this month for both adults and children. You can also find the latest Covid-19 news, green schemes and how we're supporting vulnerable communities.

Find what you're interested in:

Covid-19 news

Budget proposals define the path out of the pandemic

Our budget proposals for the coming year define the path out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We are keeping the impact on council tax bills to a minimum. The County Council is proposing a 0% council tax increase for its portion of the bill. We will use half of the funding on offer from the government for Adult Social Care, meaning a 1.5% increase.

This means that for an average Band D property household, the Essex County Council element of council tax will increase by £19.80 next year, or 38p per week.

Our post-pandemic plans focus on family, the economy and the environment.

More fast testing centres launch in Essex

New fast Covid-19 testing centres have opened in Essex. These centres are for people who don't have symptoms.

Find out more about getting tested if you don't have symptoms.

If you have symptoms, you should book a Covid-19 test on GOV.UK.

Financial support for self-isolation

If you are required to self-isolate, you may be eligible for a £500 support payment.

This new support is available to people unable to work from home and who do not qualify for the government's Test and Trace support payment.

Find out more about the grants to help you self-isolate in our news story.

Be aware of vaccination scams

You will be invited for a Covid-19 vaccination from the NHS. Vaccinations are free and you will never be asked to pay.

Our Trading Standards team has found that residents across Essex are receiving texts asking them to book and pay for their vaccination. This is a scam: do not give any personal information or your payment details. Please make sure older or vulnerable friends and family are aware of this.

If you receive a message asking you to pay for a vaccination, use this form to report it to the Citizens Advice Service or call 08082 231 133.

More information

For information, advice and support, visit our Covid-19 hub.

Find the latest Covid-19 case and hospital data for Essex on our website.

Sign up to our Covid-19 newsletter for regular updates and impacts on our services.

Activities to do this month

Whether you're looking for a new hobby or the children need a break from schoolwork, here are some great free activities to do this month.

Work out at home with Active Essex

A mother and child doing the downward dog pose on yoga mats

Active Essex is back with free online workouts for you and all the family. Join them for a choice of up to five new workouts a day, including:

  • Resistance bands with Emma
  • Legs, bums and tums with Carina
  • Swing dance with Jeff
  • High intensity interval training (HIIT) with Jasmine

Check out the full schedule of online workouts on the Active Essex website.

Top tips for decluttering your home

Decluttering is a great way to clear your home and your mind. Check out Love Essex's tips for reducing waste to avoid sending your unwanted items to landfill.

During the current national restrictions, you should only visit recycling centres if your waste cannot be safely stored at home. Kerbside collections are the most convenient way to dispose of household waste and reduce unnecessary journeys.

Learn through lockdown with ACL Essex

New online courses: Learn through lockdown

You can continue to learn new skills with ACL Essex's range of online courses. They use virtual classrooms so that you can interact with other learners and have focussed support from your tutor. There are also financial support options available.

Discover courses including:

  • Creative tasters
  • Qualifications and skills for employment
  • English, Maths, Science & Digital
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Apprenticeships

Visit ACL Essex to find a course, workshop or taster session.

Get cooking with free online recipe books

Front cover of the book Nadiya's British Food Adventure

Cook up a storm this month with Essex Libraries' free eBooks. From Veganuary ideas to baked treats, there are plenty of easy ways to liven up your home cooking.

Take a look at free cookbooks and recipe eBooks on Essex Libraries.

Become a library member to access hundreds of eBooks and eAudiobooks.

Support a local good cause for £1 a week

Two elderly people holding hands while walking in the countryside

Help make a difference to a good cause in your community by playing the Essex Lottery for £1 a week.

There are hundreds of different causes you can choose to support from around Essex, including Purrs Cat Rescue, Colchester Foodbank and Dementia Adventure.

Your support means everything to these organisations. Kath Vale, Head of Fundraising at Dementia Adventure, said: “Despite there being a growing need for support, it is a difficult time for many charities. Fundraising events have been cancelled and it is getting even more difficult to raise the funds we need to support people."

Your £1 gives you the chance to win weekly cash prizes of up to £25,000. 60p from each ticket goes to local good causes. Play the Essex Lottery today.

Find new ways to shop locally

Instead of looking to big retailers and chain restaurants, think about supporting local businesses during lockdown. They need our help more than ever.

Here are some easy ways to find local shops and restaurants online:

Visit Love Local on our website for more tips to help you shop locally during lockdown.

Handy home schooling websites

Essex Libraries has put the best home schooling and homework sites into a handy list to help you with homeschooling. 

They also offer free eAudiobooks for children which might offer a welcome break from schoolwork.

Green schemes

Green Homes Grant for lower income households

Households with an income of £30,000 or less may be eligible for the Green Homes Grant Local Authority Delivery scheme. You could get a voucher of up to £10,000 to install measures such as a cavity wall or loft insulation.

You must own a home in Essex that is currently rated as Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) E, F or G.

Trustmark registered supplier Aran Insulation will complete these works under the grant. Contact them to see if you qualify by emailing or calling 0800 587 7795. 

See if you can save on your household bills


Join more than 17,500 households in Essex that have benefitted by signing up to the Essex Energy Switch. People that switch save an average of £230 on their energy bills.

Registration is easy and free: it only takes 5 minutes and all you need is a recent gas and electricity bill. The more people who register, the bigger the potential savings. Plus, there’s no obligation to switch once you’re signed up. 

Register for free today for a hassle-free way to lower your energy bills.

Get help from Warm Homes Essex

We are working in partnership with Citizens Advice to help households that may be struggling with energy bills.

You could get help from a specialist energy advisor if you are finding it hard to pay energy bills or have debts with energy suppliers. They might be able to help you get a grant to improve your home's energy efficiency.

Visit Warm Homes Essex or contact the Citizens Advice Warm Homes team on 0300 3033 789.

Staying safe and well

Get support from the Essex Wellbeing Service

Essex Wellbeing Service logo

The Essex Wellbeing Service can help with mental health, debt, housing, employment, caring responsibilities, practical tasks and much more.

Visit the Essex Wellbeing Service website or call 0300 303 9988.

Advice for resolving conflict at home

We all experience arguments at one time or another, but lots of families are facing additional pressures. How parents interact with each other, regardless of whether they are together or not, has a big impact on children.

Find advice for healthy family relationships on the Livewell website.

Get help if you are experiencing domestic abuse

Home is not always the safe place it is meant to be. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, Essex Compass can provide assistance and help put support services in place.

Visit the Essex Compass website or call 0330 333 7 444.

Strengthening our communities

3,000 devices for children in need

By the end of next week, we will have given 3,000 iPads, Chromebooks and laptops to schools around Essex through the Closing the Digital Divide project. Schools will hand them out to families in need to help children learn remotely.

We are still accepting laptop donations from businesses. They can be any age, make or condition as they will either be re-used or the parts will be sold to buy new devices. To donate, email 

Find out more about the project on our website.

More funding for food banks and community projects

We have set aside an additional £90,000 for food banks and projects to support vulnerable families and individuals through lockdown.

Food banks and projects can apply for a grant of up to £2,000. Applications are now open.

Find out more about the funding and how to apply on our website.

Can you foster a child and help them feel safe?

Children in care have often experienced trauma in their past and need foster carers who can help them to heal. You could be the light that a child needs to guide them out of the shadows.

Our animated video was inspired by a child in care and shows how children need more than love: they need time, stability and safety.

We offer outstanding training, 24/7 support and up to £483 per week, per child. Join a relaxed online fostering event to learn about fostering, hear from foster carers and learn about the children who need homes.

Business and economy

We recently launched a newsletter to inform businesses about Covid-19 support and the EU transition. Sign up to the business newsletter and receive updates straight to your inbox.

Grant schemes

Essex Business Adaptation Grant

This scheme can help you make adaptations to your premises and operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

Christmas Support Payment for wet-led pubs

A one-off £1,000 grant is available to wet-led pubs that were severely impacted over the Christmas period due to local restrictions.

Localised and Additional Restrictions Support Schemes

Businesses that were severely impacted or forced to close due to COVID-19 restrictions may be eligible for a grant through the Localised or Additional Restrictions schemes.

How to apply

To apply for any of these grants, visit your local council's business support pages:

Brexit Transition helplines

The government's Brexit Transition helplines can give support and answer your questions about the Brexit Transition.

Roads and infrastructure

A dual carriageway upgrade of the A120 is set to establish a post-Brexit gateway between the UK and the rest of the world.

Proposals to create a new link road joining the A133 and the A120 will be submitted in early spring 2021.

Almost £100m has been secured for new transport infrastructure in Colchester and Tendring.

Road crossings are the latest part of plans to encourage safer, greener and healthier travel in Basildon.

Have your say

Whatever you do – we want to hear from you!

The Essex Residents’ Panel has been set up so you can help shape services by sharing your views and opinions. You can tell us what matters to you, what your priorities are and how services in your community can be improved.

By sharing your personal experiences and opinions through online surveys throughout the year, you can help improve a variety of local of issues such as education, travel, the environment, mental and physical health, local services and amenities.

The amount of spare time you have may vary, so you don’t have to complete all the surveys we send you, but it would be helpful if you could take part in as many as possible.

If you’re an Essex resident, aged 18 and over, you can join the Essex Residents’ Panel and contribute to the continual improvement of the services in your area.