Household Support Fund scheme
1. The Department for Work and Pensions has provided funding to local authorities to support residents in need. The Household Support Fund will operate until 31 March 2024.
2. It will provide help to residents who are struggling to afford energy, food and water bills. In addition, the scheme will cover items which may directly affect a household's ability to afford energy food and water, including:
- Essentials linked to energy and water, e.g. warm clothing, blankets, toiletries, boiler replacements / repairs, cookers or white goods.
- Other essential household bills, e.g. telephone or broadband, clothing or essential transport-related cost.
3. In exceptional circumstances, the scheme may also be used to support housing costs, where existing housing support schemes do not meet the need. Discretionary Housing Payments will be used in the first instance and the fund will not be used to support ongoing housing costs, unsustainable tenancies, or mortgage arrears.
4. The scheme will comply with guidance issued by the Department for Work and Pensions.
5. If you are eligible to receive a grant payment under this scheme, you will not be required to pay it back and it will not be treated as income for tax or benefit purposes.
6. Applications from those in immediate need:
- An application process will be available to households where there is an immediate need to provide financial help towards energy, food, water and wider essentials. The applicant will need to demonstrate that they are on a low-income and that they are struggling to pay their bills under one or more of the broad qualification categories in paragraphs 2 and 3.
- A separate simplified application process will be provided for organisations that directly support households in need.
7. Payment in lieu of free school meal during school holidays
Vouchers or direct payment will be made to families, who qualify for means-tested free school meals during holiday periods including qualifying children in nursery provision.
8. Additional energy and cost of living costs:
The council will continue to work with organisations to identify eligible households that require support under this scheme or who have been unable to qualify for other help. This includes:
- Households in receipt of qualifying benefits who would have been eligible to receive additional government help, e.g. cost of living or energy support payments, had they been eligible at the qualification date.
- Low-income households which are unable to afford to adequately heat or power their properties and who have medical conditions that may further exacerbate the situation, e.g. residents with serious respiratory conditions or who are permanently running medical equipment.
- Other low-income households who are ineligible to receive Universal Credit or other mean-tested benefits including households with children and disabilities.
- Care leavers and other vulnerable groups.
- Subject to available funding a direct award may be targeted to certain households in receipt of Council Tax Reduction (including those that would have been eligible had a Council Tax exemption not been in place) or who are in receipt of pension credit. Direct awards will be prioritised to those most in need taking into consideration available funding and other support provided through the government and this scheme.
- An application process will also be available for other lower-income households that do not qualify for Council Tax Reduction but meet one of the following criteria:
- Earning below £26,000 in respect of couples with or without children and £15,600 in respect of single people.
- In receipt of Universal Credit and earnings below £7,400.
- Working Tax Credit.
- A resident in the household is in receipt of either Attendance Allowance, Carers Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment or is a Care Leaver.
- Those who are ineligible for other government support.
9. An online application form will be available for those seeking emergency assistance under the scheme.
10. A telephone service (01744 676666) will be available to residents who do not have access to online services.
11. Applications will be cross-checked to other services including where applicable to data held by the Department for Work and Pensions.
12. The council will use a fraud prevention tool to verify bank accounts for those who have opted to be paid by bank transfer.
13. Anyone who attempts to claim a payment under this scheme by falsely declaring their circumstances or providing a false statement or evidence may have committed an offence under the Fraud Act 2006. St Helens Borough Council will investigate all allegations of fraud and may take criminal proceedings or apply other sanctions in appropriate circumstances.
14. If a resident receives a payment to which they are not entitled, they will be asked to repay it.
Version 2 - Approved 27/02/2023