By Penny Rimmer, Policy Officer at GMPA
The Covid-19 pandemic and Cost-of-living Crisis have heightened the importance of local authorities in responding to their residents’ financial needs.
The Household Support Fund (HSF) was first introduced in October 2021 and has provided £2 billion to local authorities to support essential costs related to energy, food, water, and wider spending needs.
In November 2022, the government announced in the Autumn Statement that HSF would be extended for the fourth time. Funding worth £842 million is being given to local authorities which can be spent between 1 April 2023 and 1 March 2024 (£53.8 million has been given to Greater Manchester’s councils). The latest government guidance offers further opportunities for local authorities to deliver the scheme more flexibly and innovatively.
At GMPA, we welcome the additional funding and have published a new ‘Household Support Fund: best practice briefing’ to support local authorities to ensure the funding is used as effectively as possible. We draw primarily on our ongoing advocacy and support to local authorities in response to hardship funding provided by central government since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic , as well as on our research on local welfare assistance schemes.
We provide key recommendations for local authorities to consider when developing and implementing their schemes:
- Take a cash-first approach to the delivery of the HSF to maximise choice, flexibility, and dignity for people.
- Ensure the HSF is linked to holistic support to help residents through advice-based services.
- Make the HSF application process as simple and efficient as possible.
- Ensure that residents can apply for the HSF scheme through a variety of ways.
- Identify and target households who may need support using local-level data.
- Relax eligibility criteria so it is sufficiently flexible to support those in genuine need and crisis.
- Promote the HSF widely to the local community working in partnership with key local partners.
The HSF will go some way to support residents experiencing or at risk of financial hardship. However, mounting financial pressures on households across the country mean that the level and ad-hoc nature of the funding are inadequate to meet the demand for support.
Local authorities should continue to advocate for a properly resourced local welfare provision with long-term funding arrangements building on the national recognition of the HSF.
If you work in or with local authorities and would like further information about this briefing or support in allocating the funding, please get in touch.