The Government has urged vulnerable households in England to check if they are eligible for cost of living support from their local councils.
Money is available to those most in need through the Household Support Fund. The scheme, which was initially launched in late 2021, allows local authorities to help people with the cost of basic essentials, such as food, toiletries and energy bills. A total of £842 million is available under the scheme until March 2024.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has also said it will begin to inform more than three million households across Great Britain that they are eligible for the £150 Warm Home Discount from today (Monday 16 October). The second instalment of the £900 cost of living payment will be paid out later this month, while eight million pensioners are in line to get £300 on top of their Winter Fuel Payment.
It comes ahead of a winter campaigners have warned will be tough for many people across the UK. Despite a 7% fall in the Ofgem energy price cap, the lack of additional support akin to the £400 energy bills grant from last winter will mean some households will pay more for their gas and electricity through the colder months of the year.
We’ve rounded up all the help available in our help with gas and electricity bills article. If you’re thinking of switching supplier, see how to do an energy comparison to find the cheapest fixed deals. One of the best ways to save money on your energy bills is to use less gas and electricity.
Who can get it and how do you apply for the Household Support Fund?
Eligibility for the English scheme differs from council to council. It all depends on how your local authority defines ‘vulnerable’. The DWP says you may not have to be receiving benefits to be considered to be eligible by your council.
The application process may also differ between different areas, while some local authorities may give the funding to local charities or community groups rather than directly to the public. The best thing to do is to contact your council to find out if you might be eligible for the support. To see how to get in touch with them, you can use this Government local council portal.
Similar help is available for those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
The Household Support Fund is only available to households in England. However, under the Barnett Formula (the mechanism the Treasury uses to distribute money around the UK), the scheme is also available in the other home nations. Scotland has an equivalent scheme called the Scottish Welfare Fund, in Wales it’s the Discretionary Assistance Fund and in Northern Ireland it’s the Discretionary Support scheme.
How much can you get with the Household Support Fund?
The Government has allocated £842m for the Household Support Fund over the 12 months between April 2023 and March 2024. It has divided this total up between different local authorities, with the largest proportion going to areas with the most vulnerable people.
It means cities like Birmingham, which is getting £25.6m, receive more in funding than more rural counties, such as nearby Warwickshire, which is receiving almost £7m. Given the total amount of funding is spread out across the financial year (ie, April to March), local authorities may already have distributed a significant chunk of this year’s allocation.
Councils are able to use their allocation in different ways to support local people. You may receive the funds directly as a grant payment, or they may be distributed via a charity or community group. For example, Buckinghamshire Council has funded a ‘warm box’ scheme to keep vulnerable households warm, while Kent County Council is buying essential white goods and furniture for eligible homes in its area.
Highlighting the support on offer, Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression, Mims Davies, said: “I do encourage anyone in the country who is struggling to cover costs to speak to their local council about what extra support is available in their area. I know local MPs will be keen to do the same, so their constituents know the additional help available on their doorstep.”
What other support can I get if I’m struggling?
If you’re finding it difficult to keep up with your gas and electricity bills, your energy supplier has to help you to find a solution (see more in our energy bills help guide). There are also several packages of bills support available from central and local Government, including: