Lancashire residents facing a financial struggle this winter are being invited to apply for help from a scheme set up to provide a safety net for those in need.
The Household Support Fund was introduced by the government in the wake of its decision to end the £20 per week uplift in Universal Credit, which was brought in as a temporary measure at the onset of the pandemic and ran until October.
Lancashire’s district councils are beginning to distribute their shares of the cash pot after receiving allocations from Lancashire County Council, which is overseeing the fund in much of the region.
Money can be provided to cover the cost of essential household expenses, including heating, water and food bills, as well as appliances such as fridges and cookers. However, individual councils will set their own priorities for how the fund is spent in their area and assess claims on a case-by-case basis.
Several authorities have already opened their application systems, with the remainder poised to do so.
As the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed last month, County Hall has been awarded £9.6m from the fund and has decided to pass on £3m to district councils for them to hand out as they see fit.
A further £3m will be spent on vouchers for use by the families of children on free school meals during forthcoming holiday periods, while allocation of the £3.6m remaining balance will be decided by the county council’s household support fund working group.
As standalone councils, Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen councils have received their allocations directly from the government of £1.7m and £1.6m respectively.
All of the authorities making payments from the fund will be subject to criteria laid down by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) - including that at least half of the overall funding received must be used to support vulnerable households with children and that the money must be distributed to those who will benefit from it by 31st March, 2022.
Lancashire County Council leader Phillipa Williamson said of the cash being made available: "Over the past year a lot of work has been done to ensure the help goes to those who really need it and we know this money has helped make a difference to thousands of people at what has been a difficult time.
"The fund aims to help families, care leavers, older looked after children and vulnerable households without children, all of whom may be struggling to make ends meet.
"More than £3million has been distributed to families who qualify for free school meals to ensure meals vouchers are available over the holidays, including this Christmas, while a further £3million has been handed out by borough and district councils to those in need," County Cllr Williamson added.
HOW TO APPLY
This is how to access the Household Support Fund in each council area:
Visit: Household support fund (blackpool.gov.uk)Blackburn
Chorley Council is currently developing its plans for delivering the Household Support Fund, including by working with the voluntary sector to ensure that the money reaches those most in need.
Visit: Household Support Grant – How can we help? (fylde.gov.uk)Fylde Council leader Karen Buckley said of the fund: “We are delighted to be able to facilitate the payment of these grants to those most in need during the long winter months.
“There are many people who struggle to make ends meet and these payments are essential in them being able to feed their families and stay warm this winter. If you are unsure if you are eligible, please get in touch with our friendly team who will be able to advise you of the monies available, as well as if and how you can access it.”
“The funding is available until 31 March 2022 and we hope to support as many vulnerable people as we can this winter. We understand some may well be hesitant to access the service however we are still here to help so please get in touch.”
Hyndburn Leisure will be distributing the Household Support Fund on behalf of Hyndburn Borough Council. Application details will be available on this web page once the scheme opens in the borough - Household Support Fund (hyndburnbc.gov.uk)A spokesperson for the authority said: “The delivery method includes working with community organisations who are part of the Hyndburn Hub. This will ensure the support will go to those who are in urgent need and we can help vulnerable members of our community with this essential funding.”
Visit: Household support fund - Lancaster City CouncilLancaster City Council leader Caroline Jackson said: “As the country continues to recover from the pandemic we mustn’t forget about the countless people who, as a direct result of it, find themselves struggling to make ends meet.
“We are pleased that the Household Support Fund will be administered locally by council officers who know the area. If you know of people who have found themselves with little or no means of income for a long period of time, please encourage them to apply. This fund is to help them to get back on their feet.”
Application details will be available on the following web page once the scheme opens in the borough - Financial support | COVID-19 Support for individuals | Pendle Borough CouncilPreston
Visit: Household Support Fund - Preston City Council or those without internet access can call 01772 906363.
At a recent meeting of Preston’s full council, cabinet member for social justice Nweeda Khan said that the scheme aims “to support people who are being financially impacted during the Covid economic recovery stage”.
Although the Household Support Fund is not able to be used for debt relief, deputy council leader Martyn Rawlinson told members that the city authority had separate arrangements to help people “who can’t pay their bills”.
“They just need to come and talk to us - we have advice services and we are targeting people who appear to be getting into debt, contacting them and doing everything we can to help them pay the bills and manage better if they are struggling,” he added.
The authority has also agreed to renew its council tax support system for the next financial year, providing a means-tested reduction in bills for the lowest income households.
Ribble Valley Borough Council is distributing the Household Support Fund in the form of digital supermarket vouchers to residents in receipt of local council tax support and who have a dependent child living at home. The authority is writing to every resident entitled to one of the vouchers.
More details are available at - Household Support Fund | Household Support Fund | Ribble Valley Borough CouncilRossendale
Visit: Household Support Fund | Rossendale Borough CouncilSouth Ribble
South Ribble Borough Council is currently developing its plans for delivering the Household Support Fund, including by working with the voluntary sector to ensure that the money reaches those most in need.
Visit: Support for vulnerable households over winter – Wyre CouncilDIVIDING UP THE CASH
This is how much each council in Lancashire has available to spend under the Household Support Fund:
Blackburn with Darwen – £1.6m
Blackpool – £1.7m
Burnley – £300,000
Chorley – £240,000
Fylde – £150,000
Hyndburn – £270,000
Lancaster – £360,000
Lancashire County Council – £6.6m (excludes the £3m that the authority has distributed to district authorities elsewhere in this list)
Pendle – £270,000
Preston – £420,000
Ribble Valley – £90,000
Rossendale – £180,000
South Ribble – £210,000
West Lancashire – £240,000
Wyre – £270,000