Household Support Fund (HSF3): Devon’s approach  

Context

Devon County Council (DCC) has been awarded funding of £5,064,876.12 by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for a third Household Support Fund (HSF3) for the period 1 October 2022 to 31 March 2023. The HSF3 must be spent or committed by 31 March 2023 and cannot be held over for future usage.

As HSF3 is a finite fund, once the money has been spent the fund will close (this potentially, therefore, may be earlier than 31 March 2023). This HSF3 allocation covers the DCC administrative area of Devon. You can contact Torbay Council or Plymouth City Council (or both) for information concerning their respective HSF3 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 submitting timely management information (MI) returns, Devon must have a robust policy and process in place to meet the DWP requirements

We have worked with district and city councils and other partners to identify eligible households experiencing financial hardship. The approach to deploying an initial portion of the HSF, in order to meet the DWP targets, is on the following basis:

Free school meal (FSM) holiday food vouchers

If a child in a household qualifies for free school meals in term time, then currently the child automatically qualifies for free school meal holiday vouchers. These vouchers ensure families of children eligible for free school meals during term time, are also able to purchase food over the holidays to replace the meals a child 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 (six weeks holiday in total for this HSF3 funding period), to help pay for groceries over the break.

The vouchers will automatically be distributed to eligible households before the October half-term (1 week), the Christmas holiday (2 weeks), February half-term (1 week) and the Easter holiday (2 weeks).

Further information on applying for free school meals.

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 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.

Citizens Advice Devon (CA Devon) Energy Relief Scheme (pre-payment meters)

CA Devon will manage an Energy Relief Scheme for those using pre-payment 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 2023 or may close earlier if the funds are exhausted.

Early help – families on low incomes can get help with food and utility costs this winter, 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 2023 or may close earlier if the funds are exhausted.

Find out more about early help and the household support fund.

Energy efficiency

Working via Cosy Devon, the Household Support Fund will fund a pilot scheme to provide rapid but minor energy efficiency improvements to the homes of eligible households.

If a household has an income of less than £30,000 a year the household may be eligible for free energy efficiency improvements to their home worth thousands of pounds. This energy efficiency scheme offers eligible householders the chance to improve the warmth and energy efficiency of their homes by ‘retrofitting’ them.

Check eligibility and apply through the Cosy Devon website.

Devon Community Foundation (DCF) VCSE Grant Scheme

DCF is exploring how best to deploy funds to voluntary and community organisations (VCSE) that support specific groups who may struggle to access the help and support they need. More information will be published once the DCF scheme has been finalised.

Communication

Communication will be released on the HSF3 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.

Ongoing review

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 any remaining HSF will then be considered.