Devon County Council (DCC) has been awarded funding of £10,129,752 by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for a fourth Household Support Fund (HSF4) for the period 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024.
The HSF4 must be spent or committed by 31 March 2024 and cannot be held over for future usage. As HSF4 is a finite fund: once the money has been spent the fund will close (this potentially therefore may be earlier than 31 March 2024).
This HSF4 allocation covers the DCC administrative area of Devon. You can contact Torbay Council or Plymouth City Council for information concerning their respective HSF4 approach.
The fund is designed to provide rapid short-term financial support to address economic vulnerability and financial hardship. It should be used to support households who are struggling to meet their food, energy, water and other essential living needs.
It can also be used to support households with essential costs related to those items and with wider essential costs. In exceptional cases of genuine emergency, it can additionally be used to support housing costs where existing housing support schemes do not meet this exceptional need.
Deployment of household support funds
As the DWP payment to Devon will be in arrears and subject to DCC submitting timely management information returns, Devon must have a robust policy and process in place to meet the DWP requirements.
DCC has worked with district or city councils and other partners to identify households experiencing financial hardship. The approach to deploying the HSF4 is on the following basis.
Free school meal (FSM) holiday food vouchers
If a child or young person in a household qualifies for FSM in term time then, currently, they automatically qualify for free school meal holiday vouchers (these vouchers are funded by HSF4).
The vouchers ensure families of children or young people eligible for free school meals during term time, are also able to purchase food over the holidays to replace the meals a child or young person would have received during a school day.
Households currently in receipt of free school meals are eligible for a supermarket voucher to the value of £15 per child per week of the school holidays (13 weeks holiday in total for this HSF4 funding period), to help pay for groceries over the break.
The vouchers will automatically be distributed to eligible households prior to the Easter and the May half-term (three weeks), the summer holiday (six weeks), the October half-term (one week), and the Christmas and February half-term breaks (three weeks).
Team Devon district or city council hardship schemes
All district or city councils will be provided with a funding allocation based on the universal credit uptake in their respective areas, enabling each of them to provide direct and targeted financial help and assistance to households who they have identified as eligible against their criteria and who are vulnerable and struggling financially to secure food, water, energy, essential and exceptional (for example, rent arrears prior to being in receipt of appropriate housing benefits) provisions.
In particular, district or city councils will look to identify and help those who may not be eligible for the other support the government has recently made available but who are nevertheless in need. This is especially the case for low-income households who are struggling with meeting the cost of their energy needs.
Each district or city council will use appropriate and accessible datasets, which are compliant with data protection requirements, to proactively identify vulnerable and in-need households; making contact with them and offering ‘one-off’ financial assistance.
Visit the cost of living and support pages on your district council’s website to find out more about support in your local area. As plans are finalised the following webpages will be updated:
Citizens Advice Devon Energy Relief Scheme (pre-payment and credit meters)
Citizens Advice Devon will manage an Energy Relief Scheme for those using pre-payment or credit meters and who are struggling to meet their energy needs.
Such meters are often used by those struggling to meet their energy needs and those on the lowest incomes, often resulting in them paying more for their energy requirements. A mixture of households will be helped in this way.
The scheme runs until 31 March 2024 but may close earlier if the fund has been dispersed fully.
DCC early help
Families on low incomes can get help with food and utility costs, which early help is administering locally.
Through this fund, early help is able to provide a support grant to eligible households. Referral applications can be made via a professional working with the family concerned. The scheme runs until 31 March 2024 or may close earlier if the funds have been dispersed and are exhausted.
Food, Fuel & More
The County Council is pleased to be working with Devon Community Foundation to provide Food, Fuel & More grants to organisations working with vulnerable households and people most in need of support over the coming year (until 31/03/24).
Grants should be used to alleviate immediate needs and help those who are struggling to afford food, energy, water and other related essentials, with priority given to households that find it difficult to access support elsewhere e.g. via other support gateways such as District Councils, Citizens Advice, school or community hub.
Minor Rapid Energy Efficiency Measures (MREEM)
Working with Energy Saving Devon, HSF4 funding will be used to pilot a grant scheme to provide minor but rapid energy efficiency improvements to the homes of eligible households
As the MREEM grant scheme is one funding pot from a suite of funding streams managed under the banner of Energy Saving Devon (which offers funded energy efficiency measures to eligible households, for various aspects of retro-fitting improvements to a household’s energy system and costs) consideration of eligible households for MREEM funding will be via the Energy Saving Devon website.
Communication will be released on the HSF4 allocation for Devon and the support gateways put in place to support households. Where appropriate, further direct, timely and specific communication to the individual households concerned will then follow nearer to the actual implementation of the above initiatives.
Following a review of the above actions and the subsequent confirmation of the funds being dispersed in the way described, and assuming HSF funds still remain available, a further review and deployment of the HSF will then be considered.