Politics

Jeremy Hunt extends 'lifeline for families' household support fund for six months

Intended as a way to help families afford essentials during winter, the Household Support Fund has come to make up 62% of local welfare assistance

Jeremy Hunt (right) faced calls to extend the Household Support fund

Jeremy Hunt (right) faced calls to extend the Household Support fund. Image: Kirsty O'Connor/HM Treasury/Flickr

Jeremy Hunt has announced a six-month extension to the household support fund, a “lifeline for families” which provides cash and vouchers for essentials.

As millions go hungry and cold, Hunt had been urged to extend the support, and made the move in his Spring Budget

Hunt said: “I have decided that with the battle against inflation still not over, now is not the time to stop the targeted help.”

More than 170 councils in England had called for Hunt to extend the household support fund. The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents councils in England, said families risked falling into crisis, homelessness, and poverty without an extension

“The household support fund has provided a vital lifeline for our most vulnerable residents during the rising cost of living,” said councillor Pete Marland, chair of the LGA’s resources board.

“Many at-risk households continue to face considerable challenges in meeting essential living costs, with demand for support greater than when the fund was first introduced.

Introduced in 2021, the household support fund has provided over £2.5bn in help to struggling families in England.

Funding is given by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to councils, and then passed on to individuals in the form of vouchers for food and utilities, or free school meals during the holidays.

Initially planned as a way to help vulnerable families afford essentials during the winter, it makes up 62% of all local welfare assistance, and has been extended twice by the government.

Without the fund, “crisis support will disappear altogether in many areas”, warned Sir Stephen Timms, the Labour MP and chair of the Work and Pensions committee.

Bracing for the end of the fund, charities told The Big Issue they are “planning for the worst” without the support.

Its fate had been the subject of speculation, with silence from the DWP on any plans to announce it. When previously asked by The Big Issue, the DWP simply said it will be “available up until March 2024”. The fund received no mention in Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn 2023 budget.

Tory MPs had also urged Rishi Sunak to extend the support beyond March, with former work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey among those to make the call to the government.

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