Household Support Fund (HSF2): 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 second Household Support Fund (HSF2) for the period 1st April 2022 to 30th September 2022. The HSF2 must be spent or committed before 30 September 2022 and cannot be held over for future usage. As HSF2 is a finite fund, once the money has been spent the fund will close (this may therefore be earlier than 30/09/22). The HSF2 covers the DCC administrative area of Devon.

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.

DWP guidance stipulates two targets that must be met in order for Devon to receive the full funding allocation:

  • At least 33% of the fund must be used to support households that have children / young people within them.
  • At least 33% of the fund must be used to support households that contain people of State Pensionable Age within them.

The remainder of the funding (up to 33%) may be used for other vulnerable households who are struggling to meet their food, energy, water, and other essential needs.

Initial Deployment of Household Support Funds

As DWP payment to Devon will be in arrears and subject to submitting timely management information (MI) returns, as well as meeting the two DWP specific targets (outlined above), Devon must have a robust policy and process in place to meet the DWP targets before considering further deployment of the HSF.

Devon County Council has worked with district/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

Funding the free school meals holiday voucher scheme to 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.

Families of children that are 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 (7 weeks in total for this HSF period) to help pay for groceries over the break.

The vouchers will automatically be distributed to eligible families before the May half-term (1 week) and the summer holidays (6 weeks).

Team Devon district/city council household support offer for households of people of State Pensionable Age

People of pensionable age are less likely to seek help and support, and so Team Devon will make direct contact with those struggling financially; using Council Tax Reduction data already held within Team Devon. Direct contact will be made with those eligible households in receipt of Council Tax Reduction, outlining a one-off support payment. Those eligible may contact the respective district/city council to decline the offer if they so wish.

With approximately 20,000 people in this cohort, this action ensures the DWP target set for supporting households containing people of state pensionable age is met. Implementation is aimed for mid-summer, to enable Team Devon district/city councils sufficient time to implement resources and infrastructure required to conduct the task, but also to capture deployment within the initial MI return due to DWP.

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.

Support for Black, Asian, and other ethnically diverse peoples

Respective support groups will operate small grant schemes, reaching out and providing help and support to those struggling financially; but which local authorities have traditionally found harder to reach and connect with.

Communication

Communication will be released on the above deployment of this portion of the  HSF allocation for Devon. 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 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 deployment of the HSF allocation will then be considered on the following lines:

Team Devon district/city council general hardship fund

All district/city councils will be provided with a further funding allocation, based on the universal credit uptake in their respective areas,  enabling each of them to provide direct financial help and assistance to other 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) provisions.

Each district/city council will use appropriate and accessible datasets; that they already hold and 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.

CA Devon Energy Relief Scheme (pre-payment meters) – scheme extension

If remaining HSF funding allows, a further allocation to CA Devon will be made in order to extend the initial scheme. The scheme will close once the funding has been dispersed.