By Penny Rimmer, Policy Officer at Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA)
On Tuesday 30 January, GMPA, alongside the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), End Furniture Poverty and Cash Perks, held an online summit sharing best practice on crisis support and advocating for the permanent extension of the Household Support Fund.
We are immensely grateful to all who joined our online summit and the speakers for their invaluable insights and contributions. It was fantastic to see a range of organisations, such as local authorities, frontline support agencies, and anti-poverty campaigners, come together to discuss the effectiveness of local crisis support and the critical need for the Household Support Fund’s ongoing provision.
We heard countless examples of how the Household Support Fund has been a significant lifeline for households across the country. Local authorities have used their allocations innovatively, tailoring the funding to support the needs of their communities by providing, for example, cash grants, funding for advice services, and supporting food voucher programmes in the holidays to assist households in receipt of free school meals.
Our panel of local authority representatives voiced deep concerns about the devastating impact that the withdrawal of the Household Support Fund will have. They highlighted the ‘perfect storm’ brewing for local authorities, marked by escalating cost-of-living pressures and a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years. They warned that the Household Support Fund’s conclusion coincides with the ending of other vital cost-of-living support measures. As a result, councils face the stark reality of having to consider scaling back other existing support schemes, which will mean there is an immediate risk of more households being plunged into poverty.
Speaking at the event, Sir Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, emphasised the critical nature of the situation with the Household Support Fund, remarking that “there is a great deal at stake here”. Despite the urgency, he expects the government is unlikely to make an announcement about the fund until the Spring Budget. This expected delay presents significant planning challenges for local authorities, as their budget allocations will already be set by that time.
In light of these challenges, it is more important than ever to maintain our advocacy and pressure on the government. We must continue to build momentum and call on the government to commit to extending the Household Support Fund beyond March 2024.