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Household support facing up to hardship

Household Support Fund (HSF) is the government’s baseline social support measure. It allows families facing financial hardship to apply for financial aid for food, fuel and other essentials.

By Anna Tickle.

Ministers introduced the fund in 2021 to address the increasing cost of living and devolved management to local authorities. The Chancellor announced the latest (fifth) HSF round to run from April to September at his March Budget.

Mature person
Risk of winter hardship demands longer-term support.

As yet there is no news of any further grant or replacement after September. This is disappointing because we expect many households still to be feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.  

Surrey grant

The latest allocation for Surrey, totalling £5.3 million, became available officially in April. Surrey County Council, overseeing the grant allocation has announced several channels:

  • Food vouchers over the May half-term and summer holidays
  • Energy support for care leavers
  • Surrey Crisis Fund
  • Food banks, community fridges and food clubs
  • Citizens Advice services, to ensure residents are maximising their income
  • Specific service charities.

The SCC Cabinet Member responsible underlined the fund’s importance and the special contribution of Citizens Advice:

‘Yet again by working closely with our partners out in our communities we are ensuring that funding gets to where it is needed most, to ensure no one is left behind.  By working with Citizens Advice we are also helping to ensure our most vulnerable residents are getting all the financial support they are eligible for and are managing their finances for maximum benefit.’ More information.

Continuing crisis 

Despite the good news of inflation coming down, there is evidence of continuing crisis on all sides.

The Work Foundation at Lancaster University warns that many low-paid workers still struggle to make ends meet with higher prices and housing costs. ‘Inflation may be coming down but it’s wrong to think the cost-of-living crisis is over – the truth is it has evolved.’

Our own CAEE figures shows large numbers in difficulty: in the year to April our advisers helped clients with over 5000 core cost-of-living issues.

Continuing help

With this is mind, the new round of funding is more than welcome. Support is crucial. The need for the HSF is as urgent now as it ever was, and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

The Work Foundation recommends government should extend the HSF until at least April 2026. Forecasts can change but the Office for Budget Responsibility* it will take until then for real household disposable income per person to recover to its pre-pandemic peak.

In the face of ongoing cost-of-living challenges, it’s imperative to ensure that support remains accessible to those in need.

Anna Tickle is a Research and Campaigns Volunteer at Citizens Advice Epsom a7 Ewell. A second article about applications for HSF in Epsom & Ewell follows in the next few days.

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