A new Household Support Fund has been unveiled by the Government to help vulnerable households pay for food, clothing and utilities.
Although the UK economy is recovering from the pandemic, the same can’t be said for a large number of households across the country.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of people in the UK feel that they are financially worse off now than when the pandemic began, with two in three saying this has negatively impacted their mental health, according to research by Yorkshire Building society.
Despite this, in recent weeks, the government has phased out the financial support schemes that were brought in to help people during the pandemic, such as furlough and the £20 Universal Credit weekly uplift. These changes alone have left many people facing serious financial difficulty, but when this is combined with soaring energy prices and living costs, this winter could potentially see millions of households struggling to make ends meet.
Michelle Highman, chief executive of The Money Charity said: “All the signs are that the ‘easy’ part of the economic recovery is moving to an end and the coming winter looks like it may be challenging for many people. No doubt there will be many debates about the best response from the government, but at the same time, people will need their financial management skills and judgement even more than usual.”
The new £500m Household Support Fund will be distributed to local authorities across the country. The fund is intended to provide households in need with small grants to cover essential living costs. The fund will be available in addition to other support schemes that help people heat their homes during winter such as the Warm Home Discount, Cold Weather Payment and the Winter Fuel Payment. Find out more about these schemes in our article Are you eligible for help with heating costs?
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak said: “Everyone should be able to afford the essentials, and we are committed to ensuring that is the case. Our new Household Support Fund will provide a lifeline for those at risk of struggling to keep up with their bills over the winter, adding to the support the Government is already providing to help people with the cost of living.”
There has not been much clear guidance on exactly who qualifies for support from the fund, how much you might get, or whether there will be means-testing to determine eligibility. All we know so far is that grants will be offered on a discretionary basis. Help is available now (from the start of October) so if you are struggling, it’s worth contacting your local authority to see if you might qualify for support. If you aren’t sure who your local authority is, you can find out here.